By Dana DeMercurio
Whether prenatal, postnatal or simply popping in for a routine checkup, making the most out of your personal doctor’s visits is easier than you might think. Here are some simple ways to get involved with your health with the cooperative effort of your physician.
Ask for a urine sample
Testing urine is actually an excellent way of examining kidney function that can forecast the probability of certain diseases, including cardiovascular, kidney and heart disease. In a recent study, researchers found that a simple urine screening to track kidney function acts as a better predictor than standard risk factors such as blood pressure, cholesterol and smoking. Kidney.org suggest asking your doctor about Albumin Creatinine Ratio (ACR) which estimates the amount of protein and albumin currently in your urine. Who knew checking your pee could be such a lifesaver?
Check your thyroid
Feeling fatigued? Suffer from constipation, hair loss, depression, weight gain or shortened eyebrows? That last symptom might sound strange, but these are all warning signs of a “lazy” thyroid. Your thyroid is your body’s master metabolism hormone, and when it functions abnormally, it can throw your body completely out of whack. An underperforming thyroid (hypothyroidism) causes an overall “slowing down” of many bodily functions, and nearly 27 million people suffer from a thyroid condition such as this. A simple TSH or thyroid-stimulating hormone test is usually used to detect thyroid function, and can prove to be a helpful and easy blood test for those looking to make seriously lifestyle changes to improve their health. Don’t hesitate to ask your doctor about this test if your overall health is poor and suspect your thyroid is to blame.
Test your blood glucose level for diabetes
According to a 2014 analysis by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the prevalence of gestational diabetes is as high as 9.2. Gestational diabetes differs from Type 1 or 2 diabetes in that it can come to an end after giving birth. Diabetes, whether gestational, prediabetes or adult onset, can be diagnosed through several different doctor’s tests, including hemoglobin A1C, fasting plasma glucose (FPG) or oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT). The advantages of selecting an AC1 test is that no fasting is required, and it measures your average blood glucose level over the past 2 to 3 months. Testing your blood glucose level provides powerful information about your risk for diabetes. Stay on top of your health and prevent or delay your chances by staying active, eating healthy and maintaining a healthy weight. To learn more about diabetes prevention, symptoms and diagnosis, visit Diabetes.org
Learn your lifetime virus and infection history
With just a simple blood test and $25 in your pocket, patients can find out their entire health history thanks to a cutting-edge medical test called VirScan. Here’s how it works: VirScan screens a patient’s single drop of blood for antibodies against over 200 different viruses and infections known to infect humans. Stephen Elledge, a Howard Hughes Medical Medical Institute (HHMI) investigator at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, led the development of VirScan, and believes the test to be groundbreaking in the medical field. “We’ve developed a screening methodology to basically look back in time in people’s [blood] sera and see what viruses they have experienced,” he says. “Instead of testing for one individual virus at a time, which is labor intensive, we can assay all of these at once. It’s one-stop shopping.” VirScan not only identifies past viruses but can detect viral infections that a patient’s immune system is currently working to fight off. Elledge and his colleagues have tested this technology on over 500 people in the United States, South Africa, Thailand and Peru. To read about their findings in the June edition of Science medical journal or learn more about VirScan, visit ScienceMag.org.