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A New Way of Looking at Medical Tests

The latest-medical tests and screenings include Biophysical250, the Cadillac of blood tests

By MARILYN SOLTIS
    I always thought if I ate right, exercised and saw a variety of alternative health practitioners I should be able to maintain a fairly vibrant level of health. After all, medical doctors were supposed to find problems and prescribe drugs. At some point (I was getting a little older), I decided to get checked out by some real medical doctors. Surprisingly, they seemed to know quite a bit, and to my consternation, one of my test results showed a severe vitamin D deficiency, and I was told to consume generous amounts of the supplement. As I was perusing the aisles of the Whole Foods vitamin section with little success, a helpful employee offered his assistance.    
    Multiple brands were sold out. "Dr. Oz talked about vitamin D on Oprah. It happens every time," he said. Unbeknownst to me, I was part of the O factor. Dr. Oz was telling people how to stay healthy and young and audiences were responding in hordes. Were all these people were getting tested for vitamin D?, I wondered. I bought the book You, Staying Young: The Owner's Manual for Extending Your Warranty by Michael F. Roizen, M.D., and Mehmet C. Oz, M.D. The two doctors recommended a wide range of tests that could indicate how well the body was aging and ways of taking care of it for optimum wellness and longevity. Vitamin D was the least of my worries.
    People are no longer waiting for symptoms to get tested. Healthcare today has become a way of monitoring wellness instead of just diagnosing disease. Some of these tests aren't paid for by insurance, but many are covered.
    Ask your physician for referrals for specialists and facilities for essential tests, such as colonoscopies, mammograms, digital prostate and gynecological exams, as well bone density tests.

The Ultimate Test

The Biophysical Corporation (www.biophysicalcorp.com) offers the Cadillac of blood tests called the Biophysical250. The company warns that millions of adults who appear healthy live with some form of undetected illness. Standard physicals look at about 40 biophysical markers. For the sum of $3,400 and two tablespoons of blood, they will measure 250 biophysical markers, which could indicate conditions and diseases including: cardiovascular disease; cancer (including breast, colon, liver, ovarian, prostate and pancreatic); metabolic disorders; autoimmune diseases; viral and bacterial diseases; hormonal imbalance and nutritional status.
    Drs. Oz and Roizen recommend the company's BiophysicalYou test of 65 biomarkers for $1,495. Separately, they say the tests could cost over twice as much, but your own physical may include many of these results. Not only does it provide an overview of your health status, it's designed specifically to measure the biological factors that may contribute to premature aging, such as inflammation.     In addition to checking inflammation levels, BiophysicalYou provides the standard complete blood count and cholesterol test, along with multiple screenings of your endocrine system and metabolism, covering hormone levels and adiponectin, which is produced by adipose (fat) tissue and influences metabolism.
    Liver, kidney and muscle function is scrutinized through 13 different markers. Levels of nutrients, vitamins and minerals are measured, including the calcium and vitamin levels critical for maintaining healthy bones.
    Telomere length is also measured. In case you have never heard of this, the doctors explain that these are snippets of DNA that potentially regulate the life span of individual cells and are greatly affected by aging and stress.
    Based on these test results, the doctors argue that a person can embark on an anti-aging plan, incorporating exercise, diet, personal hygiene, meditation and other processes into his or her life. The only way to change the nature or speed of the aging process is on the cellular level, as early as possible because of the decades-long delays between the causes of physical problems and their manifestation.

Other Options

Health practitioners, allopathic, complementary and alternative, are offering more tests said to identify the causes of mental and physical symptoms. Supplements and other alternatives to pharmaceuticals may be suggested, but be sure to tell your physician about any supplements you may be taking.
    Blood tests can show food intolerance leading to inflammation, which may lead to arthritis and asthma. Blood and urine tests can also show nutritional and mineral deficiencies.
    Neurotransmitter imbalance testing is a urine test that claims to identify causes of ADHD, anxiety, depression and poor immune system and hormonal function.
    Saliva can be tested for estrogen, progesterone, thyroid, DHEA and cortisol. As a result, bioidentical hormone therapy may be recommended for fatigue, hair loss, low libido and menopause.

Interpreting Test Results

It's not a good idea to try and interpret the results without your family doctor. A lot of factors go into determining how you fit into the range of values. The National Institutes of Health website explains that normal range varies from person to person depending on sex, age, race, medical history and general health. Food or medications can also affect results. In addition, some lab tests are precise, reliable indicators of specific health problems, while others give doctors clues to possible health problems and help them decide whether or not to do further testing.

Basic Medical Screenings

It's recommended that you get at least the following tests and screenings in order to keep an eye on your health:

Annually

• See your doctor once a year for a physical exam and have your blood pressure checked.
• Know your weight, waist, height and body mass index.
• If you are over 65, get your hearing checked every year.
• See your dentist at least once a year.

Every Two Years

• Get an eye exam by an ophthalmologist.
• After 35, have your thyroid checked every other year.

Other

• Cholesterol should be checked every five years, but as you get older, it should be checked more frequently—every 2 years is suggested. Males tend to be more at risk for high cholesterol.
• At 50, get an echocardiogram and stress test as a baseline.
• Menopause is the time to get a bone density test. Normal results should be rechecked about every five years.

For Cancer

• Women should get an annual pap smear to screen for cervical cancer after the age of 21.
• Baseline mammograms should start at 35-40. After 40, women should have yearly mammograms along with monthly self-exams. • For men, digital rectal exams for the prostate should be done every year after 40.
• Colonoscopies should start at 50 and be repeated every 10 years if normal.
• Have your doctor check your body for skin cancer regularly. See a dermatologist for changing moles.

If You Are at Risk

According to the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, you should ask your physician if you are at risk and should have screenings for these conditions:

• Diabetes
• HIV
• Depression
• Hypothyroidism
• Hepatitis B
• TB
• Heart Disease

Classes

Many Chicago area hospitals offer seminars and classes on wellness and prevention, as well as special rates on tests and screenings. If you are a smoker, there are smoking cessation classes. They also offer fitness and nutrition seminars and strategies for healthy living including parenting, women's health, diet, alternative medicine, coping with asthma and allergies and back pain. Most Chicago-area hospitals host patient groups that also help patients cope with life-threatening conditions, such as cancer and heart disease.

Immunizations

You should also ask your physician about whether you should be immunized for the following:

• Pneumonia
• Tetanus
• Diphtheria
• Influenza
• Hepatitis A
• Hepatitis B  

Published: December 02, 2007
Issue: December Philanthropy 07