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Don't Be Normal...Be Optimal!

Nov 18, 2022
Optimal lab work ProForm Physical Therapy

By: Chad Burnham, DPT, FAFS, CSCS

Optimizing Your Health Through Lab Work

I think Tommy Boy said it best…
”I can get a hell of a look at a T-Bone steak by sticking my head up a bull’s ass, but I’d rather take the butcher’s word for it.”

You know it's going to be a good blog when we start it out with a Tommy Boy quote haha.
What this means to me is that most people have the ability to get regular lab work done and take their health into their own hands, but instead take the doctor’s word that they are healthy…or “normal”.

While this may be true with butchers and T-Bone steaks, it does not work with medical doctors and your health!

We underestimate how powerful a tool that lab work can be in maintaining “optimal”…not “normal” health. Not only can blood tests be used to monitor your health, we can diagnose disease as well as reduce our risk for any future disease. Lab work will help to create a baseline for your health and really allow us to take an inside look at how our body is functioning. With these results we can then make the best informed decisions regarding our lifestyle, fitness, diet, medications as well as even modifying many environmental factors that can contribute to future health related problems.

A lot of chronic disease can be preventable and can readily be detected by testing our blood. Many of the common diseases such as heart disease, cancer and diabetes can go undetected for years as some of these symptoms may not even be present. Having regular blood tests can act as an early warning system.

I can use myself as a great example of this. I have a long family history of prostate cancer and had to ask my doctor for labs on multiple occasions. After being consistent with my doctor he then ordered labs for me just to satisfy my request. Seemed everything looked “normal” from his point of view. As I was not convinced my labs were accurately assessed, I took my health into my own hands and went out of network with a doctor in Tennessee that ran a more comprehensive panel…Oh and actually spent the time to evaluate me!

The results of my prostate screen were consistent with my previous doctor, however there were some concerns regarding some of my other lab values that were “normal”…But Not “Optimal”. Long story short, another specific panel was performed and I was found to have Hashimoto’s, which is an autoimmune thyroid disease. I was not presenting with any symptoms that are normally associated with Hashimoto’s. Running the correct lab panels helped to detect this early however so I can take control over it now instead of 10 years from now.

I thought I was being proactive about avoiding prostate cancer and instead found out that I have a thyroid condition. As much as this was hard to hear, I am also grateful as this would have never been detected if I didn’t have lab work done with the “right” doctor. I now get my lab work done every 3 months to ensure that I am maintaining optimal health and trending in the right direction.

If you are one of those people that was told that everything looks “normal”, then you need to be asking if everything looks “optimal”. These words have two very different meanings and “normal” is not equal to “optimal”!

Do yourself a favor and do not get trapped into the quick doctor examination, especially when it comes to lab values. Most doctors are looking for flagged lab values, but if you look at some of these values you will be amazed at how wide the reference range really is. Instead of checking if you are in the “normal” reference range, spend more time assessing which side of the range are you on and understand what this means for your health?

So how do they even determine what is “normal” anyway?

This is very controversial and is generated by the general population of people that are using this particular laboratory. Yes, every laboratory (i.e. Quest, LabCorp) has their own reference range. Keep in mind that many of these people are already not in “optimal” health and is creating a “normal” reference range for your health. This means that a normal lab value puts you within range of the average population. This includes people that are sick with chronic disease, have a poor diet, are overweight as well as those that may not share the same level of fitness as you.

Also, keep in mind that these values are constantly changing…and not for the better. As average reference ranges decrease then so does the “normal” reference range. For example, In 2017 LabCorp changed their normal reference range of serum testosterone values from 348-1197ng/dL to the a much lower 264-916ng/dL. The reason for the change was to encompass more men who are obese in the population and are known to have a lower serum testosterone level.

Quest laboratories has a normal testosterone reference range for men at 250-1110ng/dL. This is significantly different from LabCorp. Meanwhile, the American Urologic Association (AUA) defines Low-T as less than 300ng/dL. So why can’t everyone be on the same page?

So, should we really be aiming for “normal”… or “optimal”?

If you have made it this far in the blog then you know the answer is “optimal”! By getting our values in the “optimal” range we can slow or even prevent disease as well as best improve our overall health. Unfortunately, most people wait until it is too late to start working on their health. Don’t wait for the check engine light to come on. Start monitoring your health today!

As I mentioned, I get my labs tested every 3 months. This may be a little much for most of you, so start by looking at your blood work each year. At the very least, get a baseline, that way you know which direction your values are trending. Most doctors should do this for you, but if you find yourself not getting the attention that you deserve then you can certainly go outside of the network like I did. I will include 2 great resources for you at the end of this blog that are clinics specializing in monitoring and optimizing your health.

If you are not aware, the healthcare system is broken! This is really something that you have to manage for yourself, because nobody else is going to care about your health as much as you.

And remember…Do Not Confuse “Normal” with “Optimal”!

Here are 2 great resources for clinics if the medical system is failing you:

  1. The Restore Clinic: Owned by Justin Groce and is the clinic that I use for optimizing my health. This clinic is based out of Tennessee and works great for me as he is licensed in my state of NH. The are also licensed in the states of TN, AZ, CO, UT, WA, FL, and NV.
    Instagram: therestoreclinic
  2. Elevate Wellness: Clinic Director Gil Tal and is another amazing clinic for optimizing human health. I had the opportunity to meet him at Ali Gilbert’s Silverback Summit as well as listened to him speak about many topics about interpreting and optimizing your health. This clinic is a great option for all of our Massachusetts readers as they offer nationwide telemedicine.
    Instagram: elevatewellness_nj

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