The United States health care system is the most expensive in the world. In 2016 we spent approximately $3.2 trillion, or an average of $9,990 per person on health care. Switzerland was the next highest country spending, $6,776 per person. Despite the amount spent, the U.S. ranks poorly in health outcomes. A recent report published by The Commonwealth Fund found the U.S. ranked last or nearly last, in the areas of health outcomes, access, efficiency, equity and life expectancy when compared to 11 other countries with similar socioeconomic data, including Australia, Canada, and France.

In 2014 leading causes of death in the US were heart disease (614,348), cancer (591,699), chronic lower respiratory disease (147,101), accidents (136,053), stroke (133,103), Alzheimer’s disease (93,541), diabetes (76,488), influenza and pneumonia (55,227), kidney disease (48,146), and suicide (42,773).

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 150,000 to 200,000 of these deaths are preventable. The primary chronic diseases resulting in mortality are heart disease, cancer, chronic respiratory diseases, and stroke. The main risk factors for these includes smoking or other tobacco use, being overweight, a poor diet, alcohol and drug abuse, exposure to chemicals and toxicants, ionizing radiation and lack of physical activity. Most of these risk factors are avoidable or modifiable by making changes in personal behaviors and lifestyles.

Annual blood and laboratory testing is one of the most important steps aging adults can take to prevent life-threatening disease. It is possible to detect critical changes in your body before they manifest as heart disease, cancer, stroke and diabetes. Having the proper lab tests can enable you to take proactive, evidence-based, disease preventing steps that may add years to your life span – and save our health care system millions.

Standard blood testing usually includes a comprehensive metabolic panel, a complete blood count and a lipid panel. However, most annual check-ups do not include the following tests that could provide predictive biomarkers for impending disease conditions:

High-sensitivity C-reactive protein (hs-CRP) is a sensitive marker of systemic inflammation. It is a critical part of the immune system and can be predictive of a future heart attack, stroke, sudden cardiac death, and the development of peripheral artery disease.

Homocysteine. High levels are associated with disorders that range from heart disease and cancer to Alzheimer’s disease and osteoporosis. Incremental increases in the level of homocysteine also correlate with an increased risk for coronary artery disease and heart attack risk.

Gamma-glutamyl transpeptidase (GGT). Elevated GGT is linked to increased risk for a multitude of conditions including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and metabolic syndrome which can all cause mortality.

Omega Score/Omega-3 Index is a screening test to determine levels of healthy Omega-3 fatty acids in your blood. Low levels of the Omega-3s (EPA and DHA) are independently associated with increased risk of death from coronary heart disease. Fish or fish oil consumption have been demonstrated to reduce total and coronary heart disease mortality with intakes of about 1 gram per day.

25-Hydroxyvitamin D (25OHD). Medical literature currently contains more than 50,000 articles on vitamin D which plays a critical role in the immune system, neurological regulation, and bone health. According to the National Institutes of Health, it may help prevent diabetes, multiple sclerosis, and high blood pressure.

HgA1c. When HgA1c is elevated, it means that your body is no longer properly managing blood sugar levels and you are at risk of becoming diabetic. Higher levels are also associated with inflammation throughout the body.

8-hydroxydeoxyguanosine (8OHDG) is an excellent biomarker of oxidative stress and risk factor for a variety of diseases including cancer, cystic fibrosis, rheumatoid arthritis, pancreatitis, hepatitis, inflammatory bowel disease, and neurological diseases including Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. It is a non-invasive test requiring a single first morning void urine collection.

Dr. John Dixon can be reached at the Natural Medicine Group (760) 345.7300.      

Sources: 1) Biomarkers and Mortality after transient ischemic attack, stroke. 2) GGT, a predictive biomarker of cellular antioxidant inadequacy and disease risk, https: 3) Biomarkers in fasting serum insulin 4) Journal Environ. Health 2009 April 5) 6) omega-3 index, a new risk factor for death from CHD 7) a prospective study of plasma homocysteine JAMA 1992 Aug. 8) HgA1c predicts impaired glucose tolerance, Annuals Clin. Biochem. 2005 May 9) Rider et al. Circulation 2004,109, 2818-2925 9) Urinary 8-OHdG a marker of oxidative stress to DNA 10) Faststats,, 2016 11) National Health Expenditure…and…nationalhealthexpendituredata/nhe-fact-sheet 12)

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