“Your blood test results were fine.”
It’s the words that you hope to hear from your doctor a week after the annual dreaded blood test.
“What a relief”, you think to yourself, “I am as strong as an ox!”
Not so fast!
You may want to read between the (blood) lines. The reference ranges that represent the “normal” category may not be relevant for your optimal wellness. What is normal anyway? 1 in 3 people in the United States develops diabetes and 1 in 4 people develop cancer. Perhaps we need to raise our standards beyond what is normal for our population.
Are reference ranges useful?
Yes, the reference ranges are useful to screen for an undiagnosed disease but that’s about it. The laboratory reference range is defined as the range of values of the median 95% of the healthy population, meaning that these ranges are actually statistical averages. These reference ranges often do not take into consideration age, sex, ethnicity, BMI, pre-existing conditions and other factors.
As you can surmount, determining the optimal values for your body is not the concern of your doctor. Don’t worry- We’ve got you covered! Before we discuss the optimal values it’s important to keep in mind the following:
- A result that falls within the reference range does not promise optimal health
- An abnormal result does not mean you have a disease
- Comparing your test results to values from previous years is the best way to determine if you’re on the right path towards health.
What can I learn from my blood test?
A blood test is actually a good measure of the overall health of your blood. Your blood gets filtered through every organ of the body.
I like to think of blood as both an oxygen delivery system and a waste removal system. Just how important is the health of our red blood cells?
- Red blood cells deliver nutrients, such as oxygen, glucose, amino acids and fatty acids, to your cells.
- Hormones and immune cells depend on red blood cells to circulate throughout the body.
- Red blood cells pick up carbon dioxide to be excreted in the lungs.
- Under stressed conditions, red blood release ATP and nitric oxide, which cause the vessel to dilate and relax.
The lack of blood circulation is the underlying cause of most diseases!
How to achieve optimal ranges for your health
If your blood test came back a little wacky, don’t fear. A blood test is just a snap shot in time. Your red blood cells have a lifespan of 90-120 days. That means you can improve the health of your blood in as little as 3 months!
Optimal Blood Glucose and (Hgb)A1c Ranges
Optimal range >5.5%
(Hgb)A1c indicates the average blood sugar level over a three month period. This test measures the percentage of blood glucose attached to hemoglobin (the protein in the red blood cell that carries oxygen). (Hgb)A1c is the most reliable test to diagnose diabetes because it is a measure of the average blood sugar over a longer period of time.
Fasting Blood Sugar
Optimal Range 70-99 mg/dl
Prediabetes 100-125 mg/dl
Diabetes >125 mg/dl
Fasting blood sugar represents the glucose present in your blood at least 8 hours after your last meal. Fasting blood sugar is a good determinant of insulin resistance and it’s one of the first tests performed if diabetes is expected. Remember that the pancreas can compensate for high amounts of sugar in the blood by increasing insulin output. Therefore, blood sugar may not increase until your cells become insulin resistant.
Random Blood Sugar (2-3 after eating)
Optimal Range 70-140 mg/dl
Prediabetes 140-200 mg/dl
Diabetes >200 mg/dl
Random blood sugar or casual blood sugar can help identify insulin resistance. If your blood sugar remains high (>140) 2-3 hours after a meal you may have insulin resistance. Do not take a blood test immediately after a meal because your blood sugar will remain high and produce a false positive. Ask for a 2-hour insulin glucose challenge test if you suspect that you are diabetic. Follow these guidelines to help lower your blood sugar:
- Adopt a diet low in animal protein: A recent study from china showed that consuming animal protein with white rice doubled pancreatic insulin secretion.
- Decrease saturated fat and cholesterol intake: Insulin resistance is associated with the accumulation of fat in muscle cells. Fat toxicity in the liver causes the beta cells of the pancreas to pump out more and more insulin, damaging and permanently destroying beta cells.
- Start exercising (you saw this coming). Exercise helps the cells take in glucose without the signaling action of insulin.
- Lose weight. Obesity is a huge risk factor for type 2 diabetes.
- Eliminate the processed junk foods. (Following the “everything in moderation” statement will not reverse diabetes- that individual will just be taking a few less milligrams of a diabetic drug.)
- Functional foods that have been shown to regulate blood sugar levels: garlic, fenugreek, the fruit peel of guava, cinnamon, and olive leaf are just a few!
Optimal Range <100
Triglycerides are a type of fat that is stored and synthesized in the liver. Triglycerides are circulated throughout the body to be used as fuel for the cellular tissue. High triglyceride levels indicate liver lipotoxicity, which may send you down the path towards a heart attack or diabetes. New research shows that trilyceride levels below 100 dramatically decreases the risk of a heart attack. Lowering triglycerides is not difficult. Just follow these guidelines:
- Reduce consumption of animal AND plant-based fats (Yes, this means the heavily favorited olive oil and coconut oil).
- Eat small amounts of fats from nuts, seeds and avocados.
- Reduce refined carbohydrates and added sugar intake.
- Take it easy on the alcohol (preferably eliminate intake).
- EXERCISE (take long walks on the beach).
Optimal Total Cholesterol <130 mg/dl
Optimal LDL cholesterol: 50-70 mg/dl
Optimal HDL Cholesterol: >60 mg/dl
Borderline Total Cholesterol: 200-250 mg/dl
High <240 mg/dl
Cholesterol is your friend, no your foe. Cholesterol is ubiquitous in every cell of the body and serves as a precursor for sex hormones and vitamin D. We need cholesterol in our bodies, but not in our diet. Our bodies actually make all the cholesterol that we need! Any amount of cholesterol we consume from animal foods in our diet is excess cholesterol. No wonder heart disease is endemic in western countries.
- Eat Brazil nuts: A single serving of Brazil nuts per month has been shown to lower cholesterol levels.
- Increase fiber intake from beans, whole grains and raw vegetables.
- Avoid all animal foods if you want to decrease cholesterol fast. Switching from beef to chicken or fish will not lower your cholesterol levels.
- Eat 2 to 4 fresh cloves of garlic per day.
Optimal Range: 50-70 ng/mL
Recovering from Disease: 70-100 ng/mL
Clinical Range: 30 to 74 ng/mL
Low <30 ng/ml
Ahh vitamin D. The sunshine vitamin. First let’s get one thing straight. Vitamin D is not a vitamin, it’s a hormone and its receptors are found in most tissues of the body. Vitamin D regulates thousands of genes, influencing the immune system and brain function. Yet, research is unable to indicate whether low vitamin D status is just a marker of disease, rather than a cause.
Chances are, if you live in a place where you sport a jacket 8 months out of the year, your skin is not adequately exposed to the sun to produce enough natural vitamin D. Most foods are not rich in vitamin D so it’s best to purchase a Vitamin D3 supplement. Studies indicate that optimal vitamin D levels are up around 70 ng/dl; however most people have vitamin D levels below 30! Take 2,000 IU of vitamin D per day to raise your vitamin D level fast. If you are recovering from a chronic disease, increase the dosage to 3,000 IU.
Optimal 500-1300 pg/ml
Low: <300 pg/ml
Let’s get the facts straight about vitamin B12. Vitamin B12 is synthesized by microorganisms that are abundant in water and soil, as well as the intestines of animals. Animals do not synthesize vitamin B12- if that was the case humans would be able to synthesize B12 too! Humans do not absorb the B12 that is produced by bacteria in the large intestine (B12 is not absorbed in this part of the digestive system).
Why should we pay close attention to B 12?
B12 is a co-enzyme that has a key role in the functioning of the nervous system, DNA synthesis and the formation of red blood cells.
Humans tend not to show B12 deficiency until our blood concentrations are very low. A deficiency in B12 can cause permanent damage to our bodies, so it’s important to make sure we are consuming adequate amounts. The optimal vitamin B12 level is >500 pg/ml. Since I do not recommend getting B12 from meat take 10 micrograms of vitamin B12 each day and eat B 12 fortified foods.
How to optimize B12 levels:
- Take a B 12 supplement. It’s as simple as that.
- Eat foods fortified with B-12: non-dairy milk, breakfast cereals, and meat substitutes.
- These plant-based foods may have B12 but we should not rely on them for adequate intake: Chlorella, spirulina, seaweeds, and nutritional yeast.
A side note on medication:
Believe it or not, some people forget they’re on medication that control blood sugar, blood pressure, and alter electrolytes and hormones.
It’s important to remember that medications blanket the symptoms of a much larger physiological issue. There is a difference between a natural, healthy blood pressure reading and forcing your body to produce a lower reading. Don’t let the good values on a blood test fool you- if you’re on medication the underlying issue is not being addressed. Your end goal must be to get off the medication.
Before you go for a blood test do these things:
- Eating before a blood best may affect glucose and triglyceride levels. It’s best to fast for 8-12 hours before a blood test.
- Drink lots of water before a blood test to avoid dehydration, which tends to throw off blood cell counts.
- Avoid taking vitamins or supplements right before a blood test.
Overall recommendations for how to achieve good blood test results:
- Eat a diet consisting of mostly plants with minimal fat and animal products.
- Eat a serving of nuts every now and then.
- Incorporate more fiber from raw foods and whole grains.
- Eliminate foods with excess salt… or any salt at all!
- Drink plenty of water to avoid skewed results which can be due to dehydration.