We're used to checking our health only when we have symptoms or feel something is wrong. However, it becomes more and more important as we age to monitor our health regularly so we keep ourselves healthy. One of the best ways to do this is by tracking certain biomarkers - substances in our body which change depending on our health.
Many health problems show the first signs as alterations in certain markers, long before we present physical symptoms, so detecting these changes early allows, if necessary, to get treatment or change our lifestyle and avoid more serious consequences. In this article you will learn what these key markers are and why it is important to check them regularly.
The 10 markers we consider most important to monitor are:
Glycated haemoglobin (HbA1c)
Creatinine and urea
HDL cholesterol and LDL cholesterol
Calcium and Magnesium
Glycated haemoglobin (HbA1c)
Measurement of blood glucose levels is essential in the prevention of diabetes and detection of its early stages (prediabetes). Fasting basal glucose values are helpful, but the determination of HbA1c (glycated haemoglobin) is essential, as it gives an idea of the level of glucose in the blood over the last 3 - 4 months and not at a specific moment, as is the case with glucose measurement.
Creatinine (and urea)
Creatinine and urea are two proteins excreted by the kidneys, so measurement of their levels is essential in determining kidney function. Both are protein breakdown products and elevated levels are indicative of kidney failure, diets with excessive protein intake and muscle disease. However, they can also be altered in other situations where the kidney is indirectly affected.
HDL-cholesterol (and LDL-cholesterol)
Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in our society, and changes in the amount of lipids (dyslipidaemia) is a risk factor in its development. HDL are lipoprotein particles that collect cholesterol from our arteries and take it to the liver to be recycled, while LDL particles deposit cholesterol in the arteries. High levels of LDL-cholesterol and/or low levels of HDL-cholesterol are associated with the development of cardiovascular diseases (e.g. coronary heart disease, cerebral vascular disease).
Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH)
Thyroid hormones regulate our metabolism and have an effect on our weight, heart rate, bone health, nervous system and many others. TSH is a hormone produced by the pituitary gland that stimulates the production of T3 and T4 in the thyroid. It has a negative regulatory mechanism, so elevated levels of thyroid hormones reduce TSH production and vice versa. Measurement of this hormone is useful as a first screening test to detect people with thyroid hormone disorders. Thyroid diseases such as hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism affect 10% of the population and 25-50% of cases remain undiagnosed.
The haemogram provides information on the percentage and total number of the three cell lines in the blood (red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets). This test is essential in the detection of frequent conditions such as anaemia; infections caused by viruses, bacteria or parasites, as well as serious diseases such as leukaemia or bone marrow or kidney failure.
The iron profile includes the measurement of several markers (ferritin, iron, transferrin and transferrin saturation index) that allow the study of iron metabolism, storage and transport. Iron is essential for haemoglobin synthesis and oxygen transport, and low iron levels lead to iron deficiency anaemia. Elevated iron concentrations can also cause health problems such as haemochromatosis leading to other conditions such as cirrhosis, arthritis or cardiomyopathy.
Vitamin B12 plays a key role in the formation of red blood cells and in the maintenance of the central nervous system. Deficiency causes pernicious anaemia, which is characterised by the production of fewer large red blood cells. In addition, deficiency in this vitamin leads to numerous neurological manifestations and alterations in the foetus if it occurs during pregnancy. The main causes of B12 deficiency are low intake (especially in vegan and vegetarian diets) and gastric malabsorption.
Folic acid deficiency, together with vitamin B12 deficiency, is one of the most prevalent deficiencies in the world, affecting 20% to 30% of the population and is common in the elderly, pregnant women and vegans. In addition to the anaemia and foetal defects mentioned above, low levels of both are associated with chronic liver disease (such as cirrhosis or hepatitis).
Vitamin D has long been known to be essential for the assimilation of calcium and therefore for bone health, but a growing body of research is also pointing to its importance in the immune system and in the development of diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure, kidney failure and even cancer. Although some foods contain vitamin D, 80% of vitamin D levels is obtained by exposing our skin to sunlight, however, due to the modern lifestyle in which we spend a lot of time indoors and cover most of our skin, vitamin D deficiency affects more than 40% of the population, especially in winter.
Calcium and magnesium
These minerals are essential in the maintenance of bone mass, nervous system function and muscle function. The levels of these minerals are usually measured together, as changes in these minerals are closely related. This analysis detects cases of hypo- or hypercalcaemia - detecting this helps to prevent osteoporosis and maintain proper bone health, as well as the study of other calcium-related diseases. In addition, magnesium deficiency can lead to changes in calcium metabolism, cardiac arrhythmias, as well as cramps and tremors, among others.
Check your health status today
If you want to find out more about your overall health you can book a General Health Check directly via Melio, at a time that suits you.
A trained health professional at one of our partner clinics will perform the blood draw, and send the sample to one of our UKAS accredited labs. All test results are individually checked by one of our in-house doctors, who will also write you a personal medical report with any further advice and guidance you may need.
Book your General Health Check blood test click here or use the chat button if you’d like talk to one of our specially trained advisors for more information.
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