Nutrition

What Your Blood Test Can Tell You About Your Health

What can this simple test indicate about your lifestyle?

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Blood vials
David Silverman / Staff / Getty

Every major athlete who enters Exos has his or her blood tested, in conjunction with diagnostic company WellnessFX. Their blood is analyzed for nutritional deficiencies, inflammation, and metabolic, kidney, liver, and reproductive health, among other things. They can also ask to be checked for food allergies. Exos dietitians then use these results to suggest diet modifications and supplements. Here’s what I learned from my test—who knows what yours might reveal?

1) I need to eat more nuts

Under “Basic lipids,” my low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol was flagged. Results are color-coded, and my LDL level was a menacing orange, hitting 100 in a range of 100 to 130. (A higher LDL can mean a higher chance of heart disease and stroke.) But Laura Kunces, Ph.D., R.D., said not to worry: I’m barely at the threshold, my overall cholesterol “looked great,” and I should eat less saturated fat and more fiber and nuts.

2) Like pretty much everyone else, I need more sun

Or vitamin D supplements. Kunces says that the two most common bad results she sees among all clients, including elite athletes, are deficiencies in vitamin D and magnesium. My magnesium was fine, but I was in desperate need of vitamin D. “The best source is the sun,” she said. “Get an extra 10 or 15 minutes a day.” I can also eat foods high in vitamin D, such as eggs.

3) I should get semiannual blood tests

Health is fluid. Diets change, exercises come and go, and problems can occur at any time, often without warning. For this reason, Kunces recommends regular blood screenings, ideally twice a year. This allows you to keep an eye on potential problems (such as my LDL) or watch out for new ones. Anyone worried about food allergies would be wise to have those panels run, too.

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