5. Donate blood and test your vitamin D and Omega-3 levels
These three may be among the most important yet most frequently overlooked health tests out there, and I recommend doing all of them at least once a year.
• Donate blood while anemia is a concern for some, a far greater yet less-recognized health hazard is iron overload. In fact, most adult men and non-menstruating women have damaging levels of iron that, if left untreated, can damage your organs and contribute to cancer, heart disease, diabetes, neurodegenerative diseases and many other disorders.
The serum ferritin test measures your stored iron. I recommend adults get a serum ferritin test on an annual basis. Ideally, your serum ferritin should be somewhere between 20 and 80 nanograms per milliliter (ng/mL), definitely no higher than 80 ng/mL. As a general rule, somewhere between 40 and 60 ng/mL is the sweet spot for adult men and non-menstruating women.
When you get your results, be sure to check the actual level as most labs use "normal" levels that are FAR too high for good health. If your iron level is above 80 ng/mL, the solution is to donate blood. Once your levels are normal (and you're not a menstruating woman), continue donating blood two to three times a year.
If ferritin levels are over 200 ng/mL, a more aggressive phlebotomy schedule is recommended. Although your local blood bank may not realize this, recent U.S. legislation allows all blood banks to perform therapeutic phlebotomy for hemochromatosis or iron overload. All you need is a doctor's order.
• Vitamin D deficiency increases your risk of a wide variety of ailments and chronic diseases, from cold and flu to diabetes, multiple sclerosis, depression and dementia.
The vitamin D test you're looking for is called 25(OH)D or 25-hydroxyvitamin D. This is the officially recognized marker of overall D status and is most strongly associated with overall health. An optimal range is between 40 to 60 nanograms per milliliter (ng/mL).
If you live in the U.S., January and February are ideal months to find out if your vitamin D levels are low. As for raising your levels, sensible sun exposure is the ideal way. However, winter and indoor work prevent most people from achieving ideal levels from sunlight alone.
In that case, make sure to supplement with vitamin D3 (not synthetic D2), and increase your vitamin K2 as well, either from food or supplementation.
• Omega-3 fats are essential polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) your body needs for digestion, muscle activity, blood clotting, visual acuity, memory and much more. They're particularly important for proper cell division and function of cell receptors (essentially every cell in our body relies on proper ratios of essential omega-3 fatty acids).
Low concentrations of the marine animal-based omega-3 fats EPA and DHA have been shown to accelerate cognitive decline and increase your risk of death from all causes. Omega-3 deficiency is thought to be an underlying factor of about 100,000 premature deaths each year.
This is where testing comes in handy. Getting your level tested is the best way to customize your dosage to ensure sufficiency, because requirements for omega-3 vary depending on your lifestyle, such as your intake of fatty fish and level of physical activity.