Testing to Reach Your Health Potential
When you were 20 you had your whole life in front of you. You were testing limits. All that really mattered was the weekend. The formal. Who to ask to the formal or who would ask you. The next exam or paper that was due. And you’re workouts were about running past the frats where the guys were throwing Frisbees. You had all the time in the world.
After 50, testing is about medical rights of passage when you get your bone scan, your colonoscopy, and marked by less frequent OBGYN tests. Except when you want to either solve a mystery or you want to nail this aging thing like a lady boss.
I’m of the former when it calls for it and the latter all the time.
This post is in response to the frequently asked questions our community is asking about what, why, and how testing is the way to answers.
First and foremost, there’s self-testing. I’m all for it and I’m for it no matter what else you do. Your body and how you feel never lies. So whether it’s how you exercise, how much sleep you need, or how you respond to different foods, testing your response is a must.
There are three areas where I personally and as a coach recommend testing: micronutrients, hormones, and DNA. I’ll start in reverse order.
This is from Jan, who recently had her DNA tested and spent time with me talking about what results could mean combined with her signs and symptoms (energy, sleep, results from exercise, past health “numbers”):
“I wanted to share with you what I got done and the results after we discussed my DNA report.
I had my women’s yearly wellness exam – PAP smear- and it was negative. I was able to have my GYN order my lipid panel, Mammogram, Thyroid, Vitamin D and DexaScan.
He called me back today and let me know that my Cholesterol was XXX and LDL was XXX- both have gone down since doing your program! yippee!! They aren’t perfect, still working on them.
My Thyroid is off and he suggested either further testing or seeing a Primary Care Provider- since he does not specialize in this area.
My Dexascan report said that both my hips were good – He asked if I exercised and I proudly said YES!!- and he said that was definitely why they were good!!
He also said the Dexascan showed I have slight osteopenia in my Lumbar area and recommended that I start taking Calcium with Vitamin D.
My mammogram also had negative findings!!
So- I will be seeing another Physician to go over my lipid panel and my Thyroid to discuss where I need to go from here. I am so happy I got my DNA testing done to see what else I needed to do and what I should we looking at for my fitness and health journey!”
I share this with you so you can see some of the benefit of the DNA testing. Results are best used in combination with other pieces of information. DNA is not going to change, but the other things you’re doing can so you take advantage of the insight you gain, data from past results when you’ve exercised or altered your diet, to know what steps to take.
It can offer more insight when you next see your health care practitioner for annual check ups so you take full advantage of the opportunity to ask for tests in that short time you may have with your physician.
For other clients, DNA has been a way to gather details for how to optimize habits for aging better.
When I review DNA testing with someone I cover specific areas:
- Lifestyle -daily changes can make a big difference – sleep, caffeine, risk of injury
- Nutrition – fat metabolism, cravings for sugar
- Supplements – are you predisposed to deficiencies?
- Exercise – will you respond more quickly to strength training, anaerobic, or aerobic training? how can you get in the best shape easier by picking the right activity
- Further testing – if, for instance you’ve not done micronutrient testing, and your signs & symptoms together with genetic predisposition suggests you may want to supplement – testing levels first gets you on target for the right amount to move the needle on your health
1) I’ve altered my workouts slightly and skewed them a little more toward endurance exercise again (not at the cost of bone and metabolism benefits of strength training). I integrate hormone balance exercise practices with the DNA info to arrive at the best weekly schedule for myself just as I would for any client.
2) I’ve reduced my fat intake in favor of a few more carbohydrates. Those two changes alone have resulted in a boost of energy during workouts and effortless loss of a few pounds and inches.
While DNA may seem like just nice-to-know information it actually points to small daily changes that make a big difference.
I also followed up with a micronutrients test and added a few lesser know supplements to reduce an inflammatory marker I’m predisposed for (thanks mom!). After a few months of consistently taking the right supplements, my homocysteine level is down.
No one loves to take supplements. So it’s easy to skip, “forget,” or just not buy into the need. When you test, see levels of a micronutrient that are below optimal and you can tie them to a sign (of fatigue, or lack of sleep, slow metabolism, for instance) or to other numbers in my case like homocysteine (and hey, to a fitness professional that’s like an insult! How can I be at greater risk for heart disease!? Seeing it in the test results helps you help yourself.
=>Homocysteine is tied to heart disease. So even with good health habits, exercise, having identified foods that make me thrive and what I need to feel great day and night, that genetic piece was there. You don’t know what you don’t know and so you can’t do something as easy as adding a digestive enzyme daily to reduce your risk of heart disease.
Just because you have a predisposition for something – cholesterol, heart disease, dementia, or Alzheimer’s (all things a DNA test can show) – does NOT mean you have to go down that path. If you, like me, want to do everything to avoid disease and optimize your health, DNA testing can definitely be a way to discover what else you want to learn.
Seeing this in February? Because it’s Heart Health month and my own DNA revealed heart disease risk, but also helped me get in better shape by suggesting the fitness activity my body responds to quickly, please enjoy 20% off – only through the end of February. Use: HEART20 when you choose your test.
How: DNA testing is done with a swab of your cheeks. You’ll get a kit of cotton swabs complete with simple instructions and just need to mail the samples in for results. It may take several weeks but it’s a one and done – your genetics don’t change!
Let’s say you’re average. (You’re so NOT by the way!) Seventy percent of the population is Vitamin D deficient, 80% is deficient in Magnesium, and 90% are deficient in Omega 3.
If you have something skewed in your blood tests, like me with high homocysteine levels, it may indicate a need for a specific micronutrient. In my case, B12 supports optimal homocysteine levels. So does Choline. My guess is if you’re reading this you don’t immediately think of Choline supplementation! Only a test that’s interpreted with a health coach or practitioner can suggest to you – in combination potentially with DNA testing, how to improve your levels.
You want optimal Choline especially if you’re exercising. Sixty-five percent of exercisers are deficient in Choline, especially if they limit protein. Decreased B6 and decreased selenium (also tied to thyroid issues) effect GABA (an amino acid tied to anxiety and depression), serotonin, and dopamine – all your mood-related hormones.
Stress and exercise deplete Vitamin D. Are you a woman who negates stress with exercise? It creates a challenging situation for micronutrients – unless you look under the hood. If you’re depressed or anxious, or you participate in “heavy” exercise, your B12 level definitely something to check.
Zinc deficiency is tied to thyroid issues.
If your CRP comes back high from a routine annual blood test, CoQ10 and Vitamin D are often deficient.
Magnesium deficiencies are tied to increased cholesterol, blood pressure, and inflammation.
Stress depletes Vitamin C. Those levels often need a supplement boost if you’re under additional stress, have frequent illness, and you need C for adequate dopamine levels (feel good hormones).
The After 50 Fitness Formula for Women includes the right individual dose of:
Exercise + Micronutrients + Recovery + Sleep + Stress + Hormones + Whol-stic Integration = You Still Got It, Girl!
Since 2015 when that book was written based on observing thousands of women who were exercising and either getting results or not getting results, I can add one more piece, the DNA. The collective whole of your puzzle pieces will include your genetics. They don’t control your outcome but then hint, very bluntly, at how to change your daily habits for the long game of a healthy life you love today and in decades.
Providing information about common deficiencies is a step in the right direction. Yet, supplementing without knowing your status and testing the outcome of a certain protocol (or amount of supplement) is not the most direct method to improve your health. Too much Omega 3 for instance can result in Vitamin E deficiency.
“Your complex.” A girl doesn’t forget a comment like that coming from a boy she likes. And yet, it’s true for me and for you.
Your health is based on the integration of everything you do. Nothing is as closely tied to health as nutrition. You make multiple nutrition decisions every day.
Things are no longer “not good for you.” They’re detrimental if they don’t support your health. If you’re over 50 you were raised on a kind of negotiations formula: if you eat this, then you can have that. Unfortunately, women still operating that way are often THE most frustrated. A woman admitted the other day – just after lamenting that she’d only lost 3-4 pounds in the last month – that she “treats” herself to several foods that she’s likely to be sensitive to every week, regularly.
There are fewer true mysteries than you might like to believe.
I know we’d all love to think moderation is still the rule. It’s not. What you do is either on solution side or the problem side. It may be on the 40-yard line or the 10-yard line but it’s not “neutral.” You change your score every time you make a choice.
How: Micronutrient testing is done via blood draw. You’ll go to your local lab with the lab order and have it done. Fasting is not required.
“Testing” your hormones begins by assessing the signs and symptoms that your hormones aren’t balanced. Your digestion, elimination, skin, hair, joints, bones, muscle, response to exercise, feeling of fatigue or roller-coaster moods and energy, brain fog, lack of libido, all should be taken into consideration. There’s the more common signs too of sleep disruption, hot flashes, night sweats, and belly fat.
No one should tolerate any of the above. For goodness sake, run from those who define physical changes like “menopause belly.” That perpetuates your expectation and believe that its normal and just a part of the deal. Um, no. Only if you decide to follow the path of those who got it and kept it.
The After 50 Fitness Formula course and the You Still Got It, Girl book contain a signs and symptoms chart. If you have three or more symptoms from any particular category there’s a strong chance that’s your imbalance. In fact, if you strongly connect with two in any category, I’d be willing to be your gut is already telling you where to focus. When you know the imbalance, you’re given the means to put balance back. Changes in type and timing of habits, some dumping of old habits in exchange for new ones is in order. But none of them are turn-your-world-upside-down habits. They’re “flips” – tweaks to your existing habits that make a big difference.
However, if I had to guess about you – not seeing you, not meeting you – I would guess you need to work on two hormones: cortisol and insulin.
No woman I work with loves to hear this: sugar is one of the major root causes of hormone disruption. (Chemical consumption and use is another). It affects testosterone, estrogen, and progesterone. Wine and alcohol are sugar. You can’t out-fitness damage you do with your food choices.
When do I recommend hormone testing?
There are two times I recommend it and it depends a little on who you are.
Here’s where I suggest you start though. Unless you refuse to comply with the suggestions that will come from your self-assessment of symptoms I’d save the lab tests for after you’ve made all the natural changes you can.
After all, medicine, pills, creams, and supplements are meant to help boost the things you have already put in place. Sometimes you can change your status enough all by positive life habits. Others will need some additional support. But bio-identical hormones aren’t meant to do ALL the heavy lifting.
Even if you’re feeling good, I often recommend a woman test. Get that baseline now. Then if things do go awry, you have a benchmark for you “normal” and feeling optimal energy and at your ideal weight. I take a snapshot every 6 months if I’m making big changes, or every 12 months if not. You can’t “feel” the ideal pathways of your estrogen taking place. Check in on what’s happening and you can reduce your risk of cancer and heart disease.
How: Hormone testing is done via blood draws. You’ll go to a lab with your lab order and have the draw in minutes. Fasting is not required but it’s often recommended if you’re using hormone supplements you abstain for a period of time before testing.
Micronutrients – and specific types – may be recommended for you if your hormones are not optimal. Your DNA can tell you if you have the MTHFR gene mutation and methylated forms of folate will be absorbed better. Many conditions like migraines, depression, anxiety are impacted by hormone imbalance tied to micronutrient insufficiency that your genetics (DNA) can provide insight about.
A health coach can help you determine the questions to ask a practitioner, steps you can take yourself, potential other tests, and habits that you want to set for yourself to see positive changes or maintain a path already going in the right direction.
A good start is assessing what you want right now. Are there things you’d like to change? Are you looking to optimize your future as well as the way you look at feel now? Then do a self-assessment of your hormones and jump to the habits that describe women who have achieved hormone balance. Then decide if Micronutrient, DNA, or Hormone Testing is your next step. If you have amazing insurance and a practitioner on board with optimal aging for you too, start there. If you want to take things into your own hands, order what you want when you want it, self-directed labs are a quick way to order, test conveniently, and get results that you choose what to do with.
Micronutrient Testing (use: Flipping50 for $ off)
Hormone Testing (use: Flipping50 for $ off)
DNA testing (use heart20 in February 2019 for a 20% savings!)