Regular Blood Work: 9 Essential Biomarkers

Regular blood work is an important part of maintaining good health and longevity. Blood tests can provide valuable insights into your overall health status, including your risk of developing chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.

In a nutshell

  1. Research showed that early detection and proactive health management through routine checkups and blood work can have a significant impact on life expectancy.
  2. This article emphasizes the importance of essential blood for promoting longevity and overall well-being.
  3. You will learn about essential blood tests and biomarkers to help you assess your cardiovascular and overall health status.

By detecting potential health issues early on, blood work can help you and your healthcare provider take appropriate preventive measures to reduce your risk of developing serious health complications.1 Rasmussen SR, Thomsen JL, Kilsmark J, Hvenegaard A, Engberg M, Lauritzen T, Søgaard J. Preventive health screenings and health consultations in primary care increase life expectancy without increasing costs. Scand J Public Health. 2007;35(4):365-72. doi: 10.1080/14034940701219642. PMID: 17786799. PubMed Source

In this article, we will highlight some key blood tests that can help you monitor your health and well-being.

1. Complete Blood Count (CBC)


The Complete Blood Count (CBC) is one of the most common blood tests performed during a routine checkup. This test evaluates different components of your blood.

The CBC test is important for monitoring your overall health and well-being, as it can detect a wide range of health conditions, including anemia, infection, and leukemia. The test measures several key parameters, including:

  1. Red Blood Cells (RBCs) – the number of RBCs in the blood can provide information about your oxygen-carrying capacity and detect potential issues such as anemia.
  2. White Blood Cells (WBCs) – the number of WBCs in the blood can help detect infections or other inflammatory conditions.
  3. Platelets – the number of platelets in the blood can provide information about your blood clotting ability and detect potential issues such as bleeding disorders.
  4. Hemoglobin – a protein found in RBCs that carries oxygen throughout the body. A low hemoglobin level can indicate anemia.
  5. Hematocrit – the percentage of RBCs in the blood. A low hematocrit level can indicate anemia.

By monitoring these key parameters through regular CBC tests, potential health issues can be detected early on, allowing for timely intervention and management. For example, if anemia is detected, your healthcare provider may recommend dietary changes or iron supplements to help improve your iron levels and prevent further complications.


2. Cholesterol Levels and ApoB

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Cholesterol is a type of fat that is present in the blood and is important for maintaining good health. However, high levels of cholesterol, particularly low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, can increase the risk of developing heart disease and stroke. As such, monitoring cholesterol levels is an important part of maintaining good health and longevity.

Cholesterol levels can be evaluated through a blood test that measures total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, and triglycerides. A healthcare professional may also calculate the ratio of LDL cholesterol to HDL cholesterol, which can provide additional information about cardiovascular risk.

In addition to monitoring cholesterol levels, healthcare professionals may also measure ApoB, a protein that is present in LDL particles. ApoB is a more sensitive indicator of cardiovascular risk than LDL cholesterol alone, as it reflects the number of LDL particles in the blood rather than just their concentration.2 Behbodikhah J, Ahmed S, Elyasi A, Kasselman LJ, De Leon J, Glass AD, Reiss AB. Apolipoprotein B and Cardiovascular Disease: Biomarker and Potential Therapeutic Target. Metabolites. 2021 Oct 8;11(10):690. doi: 10.3390/metabo11100690. PMID: 34677405; PMCID: PMC8540246. PubMed Source

High levels of ApoB are associated with an increased risk of developing heart disease and stroke. By monitoring ApoB levels, healthcare professionals can identify individuals who may be at increased risk of cardiovascular disease and implement appropriate interventions, such as lifestyle changes or medication.

3. Blood Sugar



Blood sugar, also known as blood glucose, is a measure of the amount of sugar in the blood. High blood sugar levels can be a sign of diabetes, a chronic condition that can lead to serious health complications, such as heart disease, kidney disease, and blindness. Regular blood sugar (glucose) testing can help detect prediabetes or diabetes early, allowing for better management and prevention of complications.

Blood sugar levels can be evaluated through a blood test that measures fasting blood glucose, which is the amount of glucose in the blood after an overnight fast. A healthcare professional may also measure hemoglobin A1C, a measure of average blood glucose levels over the past 2-3 months. The American Diabetes Association recommends blood glucose testing at least every three years for adults aged 45 and older or earlier if risk factors are present. However, you might consider doing it more frequently because of its simplicity and low cost.

Nowadays, continuous blood glucose monitors (CGMs) also became popular not only in diabetic patients but also in the general public. The advantage of these monitors is that they provide real-time glucose data, allowing individuals to monitor trends and make timely adjustments to their diet, exercise, and medications, which can improve lifestyle choices and overall health.3 Battelino T, Danne T, Bergenstal RM, Amiel SA, Beck R, Biester T, Bosi E, Buckingham BA, Cefalu WT, Close KL, Cobelli C, Dassau E, DeVries JH, Donaghue KC, Dovc K, Doyle FJ 3rd, Garg S, Grunberger G, Heller S, Heinemann L, Hirsch IB, Hovorka R, Jia W, Kordonouri O, Kovatchev B, Kowalski A, Laffel L, Levine B, Mayorov A, Mathieu C, Murphy HR, Nimri R, Nørgaard K, Parkin CG, Renard E, Rodbard D, Saboo B, Schatz D, Stoner K, Urakami T, Weinzimer SA, Phillip M. Clinical Targets for Continuous Glucose Monitoring Data Interpretation: Recommendations From the International Consensus on Time in Range. Diabetes Care. 2019 Aug;42(8):1593-1603. doi: 10.2337/dci19-0028. Epub 2019 Jun 8. PMID: 31177185; PMCID: PMC6973648. PubMed Source 4 Holzer R, Bloch W, Brinkmann C. Continuous Glucose Monitoring in Healthy Adults-Possible Applications in Health Care, Wellness, and Sports. Sensors (Basel). 2022 Mar 5;22(5):2030. doi: 10.3390/s22052030. PMID: 35271177; PMCID: PMC8915088. PubMed Source

4. Thyroid Function Tests

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Thyroid hormones are crucial in regulating overall metabolism and are essential for maintaining good health. They help control the speed at which the body uses energy, produces proteins, and regulates sensitivity to other hormones, ultimately impacting various bodily functions and well-being.

Tests including thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH), free T3, and free T4 help assess thyroid health and identify disorders that may impact metabolism, energy levels, and overall well-being.5 Shivaraj G, Prakash BD, Sonal V, Shruthi K, Vinayak H, Avinash M. Thyroid function tests: a review. Eur Rev Med Pharmacol Sci. 2009 Sep-Oct;13(5):341-9. PMID: 19961039. PubMed Source

Thyroid function tests are particularly important for women, as thyroid dysfunction is more common in women than men. In addition, thyroid dysfunction is more common in older adults, highlighting the importance of regular testing for this population.


5. Vitamin D Levels


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Vitamin D is an essential nutrient that is important for bone health, immune function, and overall health and well-being. Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to a wide range of health problems, including osteoporosis, depression, and an increased risk of certain types of cancer.6 Holick MF, Chen TC. Vitamin D deficiency: a worldwide problem with health consequences. Am J Clin Nutr. 2008 Apr;87(4):1080S-6S. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/87.4.1080S. PMID: 18400738. PubMed Source

A deficiency in Vitamin D is very common among Americans, so regularly tracking its levels is essential for long-term health and longevity. It’s particularly common among older adults, as the skin’s ability to produce vitamin D decreases with age. In addition, individuals who have limited sun exposure or who live in northern latitudes may also be at increased risk of vitamin D deficiency.

If vitamin D deficiency is detected through a blood work test, appropriate interventions can be implemented to manage the condition. This may involve dietary changes, such as increasing the consumption of vitamin D-rich foods, such as fatty fish and fortified dairy products, or taking vitamin D supplements.

6. Homocysteine

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Homocysteine is an amino acid that is produced by the body as part of normal metabolic processes. High levels of homocysteine in the blood have been linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke, and dementia. Monitoring homocysteine levels is an important part of maintaining good health and longevity.7 Chrysant SG, Chrysant GS. The current status of homocysteine as a risk factor for cardiovascular disease: a mini review. Expert Rev Cardiovasc Ther. 2018 Aug;16(8):559-565. doi: 10.1080/14779072.2018.1497974. Epub 2018 Jul 17. PMID: 29979619. PubMed Source

Homocysteine levels can be affected by various factors, including diet, genetics, and certain health conditions. For example, deficiencies in vitamin B12, vitamin B6, or folate can lead to elevated homocysteine levels.

Monitoring homocysteine levels can help identify potential risks and guide lifestyle modifications or treatments to improve cardiovascular health.

7. C-Reactive Protein (CRP)


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CRP is a protein produced by the liver in response to inflammation, whether it is caused by infection, tissue injury, or chronic conditions. The level of general inflammation plays a significant role in life expectancy and is known to increase with age. Assessing CRP levels during your regular blood work offers valuable insight into the overall inflammation status within the body, helping to evaluate the risk of different diseases.8 Wassel CL, Barrett-Connor E, Laughlin GA. Association of circulating C-reactive protein and interleukin-6 with longevity into the 80s and 90s: The Rancho Bernardo Study. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2010 Oct;95(10):4748-55. doi: 10.1210/jc.2010-0473. Epub 2010 Jul 21. PMID: 20660034; PMCID: PMC3050106. PubMed Source

Elevated levels of CRP indicate the presence of inflammation in the body, which can be associated with various health conditions, including cardiovascular disease, autoimmune disorders, and certain cancers. Chronic low-grade inflammation has been linked to an increased risk of developing these conditions and can contribute to their progression.

Regular CRP tests can help identify underlying inflammation and enable early intervention to prevent or manage associated health problems. By monitoring CRP levels over time, healthcare professionals can assess the effectiveness of interventions aimed at reducing inflammation, such as lifestyle modifications, medications, or other targeted treatments.

Moreover, CRP tests can serve as a useful tool for evaluating cardiovascular health. High levels of CRP have been associated with an increased risk of heart disease and stroke. When combined with other risk factors, such as cholesterol levels and blood pressure, CRP testing can provide a more comprehensive assessment of cardiovascular risk and help guide preventive strategies.

It’s important to note that CRP tests are not specific to any particular condition but serve as a marker of overall inflammation in the body.

8. Kidney Function Tests



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The kidneys filter waste products and excess fluids from the bloodstream, regulate electrolyte balance, and produce hormones that support red blood cell production and bone health. When kidney function is compromised, toxins and waste products can build up in the body, leading to serious health complications.

Tests like blood urea nitrogen (BUN) and creatinine levels can help evaluate kidney health and detect potential kidney diseases.9 Blood urea nitrogen (BUN) test. Mayo Clinic. Source 10 Creatinine test.Mayo Clinic. Source

Detecting kidney disease or dysfunction early on is crucial for several reasons. Firstly, early intervention can slow down the progression of kidney disease, preserve kidney function, and prevent further damage. Secondly, kidney disease is often asymptomatic in its early stages, making regular kidney function tests even more important for early detection. By identifying kidney problems early and implementing appropriate interventions, such as medication adjustments, dietary changes, or lifestyle modifications, individuals can potentially delay the onset of kidney failure and its associated complications.

9. Liver Function Tests


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The liver is a vital organ responsible for various essential functions, including detoxification, metabolism, storage of nutrients, and production of important proteins.

Liver function tests typically assess various enzymes, proteins, and other substances in the blood that indicate how well the liver is functioning. These tests include measurements of alanine aminotransferase (ALT), aspartate aminotransferase (AST), alkaline phosphatase (ALP), bilirubin, and albumin levels.

Elevated levels of ALT and AST may suggest liver damage or inflammation, which can occur due to conditions such as hepatitis, fatty liver disease, alcohol abuse, or certain medications. Alkaline phosphatase levels may indicate conditions affecting the liver and bile ducts. Bilirubin levels are important for evaluating liver and gallbladder function, as elevated levels can indicate conditions such as jaundice or gallstones. Albumin levels reflect the liver’s ability to produce proteins necessary for maintaining fluid balance and overall health.

Regular liver function tests can help detect liver diseases or abnormalities at an early stage, even before symptoms become apparent.11 Lala V, Zubair M, Minter DA. Liver Function Tests. 2022 Oct 5. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 Jan–. PMID: 29494096. PubMed Source

Furthermore, liver health is closely interconnected with other bodily systems. A healthy liver supports proper digestion, metabolism, immune function, and the detoxification process. Additionally, the liver plays a crucial role in processing medications, which makes monitoring liver function essential for individuals taking long-term medications.


How often to do blood work?

Doing regular blood work every 6-12 months can be a good idea. Many chronic diseases can develop slowly and without symptoms, making it important to monitor your health status on a regular basis. By monitoring your blood work every six months, your healthcare provider can track changes in your health status and adjust your treatment plan if necessary.

In addition to detecting potential health issues, regular blood work can also provide valuable information on how your lifestyle choices affect your health. In general, regular blood work helps establish a baseline for your body’s appearance when functioning well, at least subjectively.

With optimized data analysis, you can quickly identify subtle changes that might occur under the surface. This way, you can proactively adjust your diet, lifestyle, and supplementation well before potential disease onset.


Recap and final thoughts

Overall, taking a proactive approach to your health and regularly monitoring your blood work and essential biomarkers can help you maintain good health and longevity. By keeping track of key health indicators, you can spot potential issues early and act proactively to maintain your health. You can also receive valuable information about the effect of your lifestyle choices, such as diet, exercise, and supplementation, on key health biomarkers.


References

  • 1
    Rasmussen SR, Thomsen JL, Kilsmark J, Hvenegaard A, Engberg M, Lauritzen T, Søgaard J. Preventive health screenings and health consultations in primary care increase life expectancy without increasing costs. Scand J Public Health. 2007;35(4):365-72. doi: 10.1080/14034940701219642. PMID: 17786799. PubMed Source
  • 2
    Behbodikhah J, Ahmed S, Elyasi A, Kasselman LJ, De Leon J, Glass AD, Reiss AB. Apolipoprotein B and Cardiovascular Disease: Biomarker and Potential Therapeutic Target. Metabolites. 2021 Oct 8;11(10):690. doi: 10.3390/metabo11100690. PMID: 34677405; PMCID: PMC8540246. PubMed Source
  • 3
    Battelino T, Danne T, Bergenstal RM, Amiel SA, Beck R, Biester T, Bosi E, Buckingham BA, Cefalu WT, Close KL, Cobelli C, Dassau E, DeVries JH, Donaghue KC, Dovc K, Doyle FJ 3rd, Garg S, Grunberger G, Heller S, Heinemann L, Hirsch IB, Hovorka R, Jia W, Kordonouri O, Kovatchev B, Kowalski A, Laffel L, Levine B, Mayorov A, Mathieu C, Murphy HR, Nimri R, Nørgaard K, Parkin CG, Renard E, Rodbard D, Saboo B, Schatz D, Stoner K, Urakami T, Weinzimer SA, Phillip M. Clinical Targets for Continuous Glucose Monitoring Data Interpretation: Recommendations From the International Consensus on Time in Range. Diabetes Care. 2019 Aug;42(8):1593-1603. doi: 10.2337/dci19-0028. Epub 2019 Jun 8. PMID: 31177185; PMCID: PMC6973648. PubMed Source
  • 4
    Holzer R, Bloch W, Brinkmann C. Continuous Glucose Monitoring in Healthy Adults-Possible Applications in Health Care, Wellness, and Sports. Sensors (Basel). 2022 Mar 5;22(5):2030. doi: 10.3390/s22052030. PMID: 35271177; PMCID: PMC8915088. PubMed Source
  • 5
    Shivaraj G, Prakash BD, Sonal V, Shruthi K, Vinayak H, Avinash M. Thyroid function tests: a review. Eur Rev Med Pharmacol Sci. 2009 Sep-Oct;13(5):341-9. PMID: 19961039. PubMed Source
  • 6
    Holick MF, Chen TC. Vitamin D deficiency: a worldwide problem with health consequences. Am J Clin Nutr. 2008 Apr;87(4):1080S-6S. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/87.4.1080S. PMID: 18400738. PubMed Source
  • 7
    Chrysant SG, Chrysant GS. The current status of homocysteine as a risk factor for cardiovascular disease: a mini review. Expert Rev Cardiovasc Ther. 2018 Aug;16(8):559-565. doi: 10.1080/14779072.2018.1497974. Epub 2018 Jul 17. PMID: 29979619. PubMed Source
  • 8
    Wassel CL, Barrett-Connor E, Laughlin GA. Association of circulating C-reactive protein and interleukin-6 with longevity into the 80s and 90s: The Rancho Bernardo Study. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2010 Oct;95(10):4748-55. doi: 10.1210/jc.2010-0473. Epub 2010 Jul 21. PMID: 20660034; PMCID: PMC3050106. PubMed Source
  • 9
    Blood urea nitrogen (BUN) test. Mayo Clinic. Source
  • 10
    Creatinine test.Mayo Clinic. Source
  • 11
    Lala V, Zubair M, Minter DA. Liver Function Tests. 2022 Oct 5. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 Jan–. PMID: 29494096. PubMed Source
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