Monday, December 27, 2010

Your Medical Tests: When Normal Isn’t Quite Normal

Any time you go to a physician’s office and have a lab test done, x-rays taken or any other diagnostic test performed, get a copy for your records and, if you go to another healthcare provider for the same issue, bring a copy of your test results. Never settle for “they said it was a little low but I don’t need to take anything.” On many occasions I’ve asked people to bring in their lab tests only to find that a “little low” isn’t acceptable. And, the most common tests that doctors aren’t aggressive enough with – vitamin D and iron.

While the “normal range” of vitamin D is 30 – 74 ng/mL, experts recommend doses of 50-70 ng/mL for optimal health. And, even if you are just a little below normal, supplemental doses of vitamin d may take a long time to get your blood levels up above the lower cutoff. Keep in mind that people respond very differently to both supplements and prescription doses of a vitamin or mineral. Some of us need less while others need a lot more to maintain adequate levels of the nutrient in our body.

Testing for iron isn’t so clear cut, mainly because you should, optimally, get a full iron panel to see where you stand. Just getting your hemoglobin and hematocrit tested may mean very little. And, even if your ferritin (your storage form of iron) levels are within normal limits they may still be indicative of iron deficiency anemia. For more information, see Figure 1 on this page titled Diagnosing Iron Deficiency Anemia.

Be your own health advocate by doing your homework so you are informed and know what questions to ask. After all, you know your body and how you feel better than anyone.

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