How a Wellness Tune-up can Prevent and Reverse Disease
By Dr. Wes Youngberg
When I was 24 years old I read the studies done by Drs. Brown and Goldsteine. They had just won the Nobel Prize in Medicine for their work showing how harmful cholesterol particles can enter the artery walls and cause plaque. So I took the initiative and got tested. Since I was very fit and careful with my diet, I was shocked to learn that I had very high LDL Cholesterol and Triglycerides. At first I was depressed but I quickly realized that I had been given a gift! A second-chance of-sorts. With this new awareness I could make the necessary changes now, well before any health problems developed.
Everyone wants to be healthy but few of us recognize the underlying causes of our suboptimal health. A proper tune up requires that we first do the right blood tests. But when is the last time we took the time to get a comprehensive wellness evaluation?
Blood tests are often the best and quickest way to assess our health and to help us stay motivated. Even the healthiest among us have “chinks in our armor” and can benefit from these objective lab tests. There are many tests available to those looking for a health tune up. Here are several of the tests that I usually recommend when initiating a wellness tune-up.
1) MTHFR test. No I’m not swearing at you. This could actually be the most important blood test of your life! It is the most significant scientific breakthrough resulting from the Human Genome Project completed in 2003. MTHFR is a blood test that tells us if we have a mutation in the gene and resulting enzyme that methylates, and therefore activates the vitamin Folate. Individuals with this mutation should avoid Folic Acid – the synthetic form of folate found in most multiple vitamins. This is also the most likely reason why studies are finding that multiple vitamin users may have higher risk of cancer and other diseases. Care should be taken to use only the best forms of nutritional supplements. About 40% of us have one copy of this mutation which results in a 30% decrease in our body’s ability to detoxify, repair DNA and suppress viruses. Having two copies creates up to 90% impairment. Because this mutation affects every cell and organ system it can be a hidden culprit in many health problem. There are five common variations of this mutation, each with it’s own easy to understand nutritional protocol that not only lowers health risk but actually produces a nutritional bypass of the mutation itself. This largely resolves the long-term health risk. My father was struggling with Congestive Heart Failure and autoimmune attacks on his blood platelets. Testing MTHFR uncovered a double mutation that once treated with the proper nutritional protocol dramatically improved his conditions within six weeks. See my YouTube presentation “Gene Management: Transforming Genetic Risk.” This presentation is a good introduction to how we can modify our genetic risk including MTHFR mutations.
2) Glucose Tolerance Test (GTT) with Insulin, Cortisol, and A1C testing. The 2hr GTT is the best test to catch diabetes or prediabetes early. Nearly 50% of us between the ages of 40 and 59 already have diabetes or prediabetes. If you are older than 60, the odds you already have prediabetes is 66-75%! Since 90% of us who already have prediabetes are completely unaware, it makes having high blood sugar and insulin levels one of the most under diagnosed health problems in America. A simple fasting blood sugar is not adequate since it’s the after meal blood sugars that account for the majority of risk. A 4-hr GTT would help determine adrenal fatigue and low blood sugar tendencies. These can be easily treated once properly understood. For over 20 years I have recommended this test to nearly every patient and believe that this is the most underutilized and most important parts of the “health tune up”. Abnormal GTT or insulin levels are a key cause of high blood pressure, plaque buildup, weight gain, infertility, headaches, dementia, as well as breast, prostate and colon cancers. Elevated insulin at 1 and 2 hours into the test is one of the earliest indicators assessing the risk of cancer initiation and promotion. Elevated insulin levels are also a key metabolic driver of cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s progression. The good news is that we can dramatically improve insulin levels in our blood with completely natural approaches.
3) A Functional Thyroid Panel includes TSH, Free T4, Free T3, Thyroid Antibodies, and Reverse T3. These tests provide clues about our metabolism and the health of every organ system in our body. Improperly evaluated, poor thyroid function can result in dry skin, fatigue, unhealthy nails and hair, cold feet or hands, headaches, depression, anxiety, insomnia, ADHD, allergies, chronic infections, weight gain, diabetes, constipation, high blood pressure, menstrual problems, etc. It is also important to recognize that a normal TSH doesn’t necessarily mean that there is optimal thyroid function. We can have elevated thyroid antibodies even with normal thyroid hormone levels. Fortunately there are natural approaches to treat thyroid effectively. I personally gained control of a 25 year battle with toenail fungus and 15 years of cold feet (both signs of poor circulation) when I took time to properly address my thyroid. More importantly my strong family history of heart disease, cancer and Alzheimer’s is much less of a concern now that I recognize subclinical hypothyroidism as a major contributing factor and implemented the proper nutritional and hormonal strategies.
4) The NMR LipoProfile Cholesterol Test provides a much more comprehensive evaluation of heart attack and stoke risk. Unlike the regular Lipid/Cholesterol Profile, this test actually measures the LDL particle size and number. Even with normal levels of cholesterol, small LDL particles easily infiltrate the artery wall promoting plaque buildup. Having a higher LDL particle number also greatly increases health risk even with normal total or LDL levels. This test help us develop a natural program to prevent or reverse erectile dysfunction, heart attacks, strokes, clotting risk and therefore improve circulation of oxygen and nutrition to every organ. It is a key to any wellness tune-up.
5) Cardiac CRP is a blood test that measures the level of inflammation throughout your body. Inflammation literally turns on genes that promote diabetes, cancer, heart disease and autoimmune conditions. Once discovered, inflammation can be properly addressed with natural strategies that help turn off disease promoting genes.
6) Vitamin D testing is a critical part of your health tune-up and very easy to fix. Studies estimate that 35% of all cancers could be eliminated if we optimized our blood level of Vitamin D. Low levels greatly increase our risk of infections, pneumonia, autoimmune disease, neurologic and mental health problems. Don’t think that being in the sun regularly eliminates your need to test Vitamin D. Even as a beach and sun lover my Vitamin D level has been as low as 25. Get tested and then take enough Vitamin D to achieve a 50 to 100 on your blood test.
There are specific supplements, diet protocols and other natural strategies available at lifestyle medicine clinics to help control and even reverse risk factors associated with your “tune up”. Once baseline tests are done it is important that proper strategies be put in place to address the various causes of the health problems identified. Whether my patients are involved in the Optimal Brain Wellness series, the Diabetes Management Clinic, Detox Program, or the Total Wellness series, I generally recommend that the abnormal baseline labs be repeated at five and then 10 weeks in order to ensure success and make adjustments as needed. The good news is that the above lab tests and tune up can give us the direction we need to make the next three months a time of health transformation and healing.
Tips on getting specialized blood tests
Health insurance is changing. Many of us have lost health insurance or decided that it is just too expensive. Most with insurance have a huge deductible, or are no longer willing to let an insurance plan dictate what tests we can have done. A great option is to work with a clinic that has discount contracts with local and national labs. For instance, at our clinic, patients get a 80% discount on all labs. Likewise, I use the same discount service for all labs done for my family. That way I get exactly what I need and at a discount that is better than what my insurance would charge me. Take charge of your health and get the tune-up lab tests that can help you transform your health naturally.