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Preventive Medical Tests Every Athlete Needs

by Dr. Jason Barker November 16, 2017

Preventive Medical Tests Every Athlete Needs

I know, I know. You’re super fit. You’re fast. You’re the epitome of health, you never get sick, and have little need to see a doctor. But hear me out. You’re also human, and thus subject to the tricks that physiology can play on even the most dedicated health and fitness enthusiast.

Or, think of it this way. You’re a finely tuned machine and since you go through all the pains and intricacies of minding your diet, training, recovering, and resting – all that stuff you do to maximize your health and performance - don't you think it’s worth it to have a look under the hood with important tests once a year? I certainly do, and here’s what I recommend:

Bloodwork

  • Iron panel
    Looks at how much iron you’re carrying. Female athletes of reproductive age and vegetarian/vegans are most prone to iron deficiency, but all athletes (men too) may also be at risk due to diet and certain training phenomena ( foot strike hemolysis, for instance).  Low iron will drag you down, big time.
  • CBC (complete blood count) with differential
    This test covers a lot in regard to your red (energy delivery) and white (immune system) cells status. The differential aspect of this test is especially important because it gives us a lot of info about your immune system and how it’s working.
  • Chemistry panel
    A chemistry panel informs us about your kidney and liver functions; this test can pick up organ changes preceding full-on disease.
  • Vitamin D
    More a hormone than an actual vitamin, it’s important to look at levels of the Vitamin-D nutrient as it plays a role in immunity, (endurance athletes are easily immunodepressed from excess training) energy levels and muscle pain, namely when it’s deficient.
  • hsCRP,
    Or, highly sensitive c-reactive protein. It measures general inflammation in great detail. Inflammation in your bloodstream accelerates the cardiovascular disease process. Be sure to get the highly sensitive version of this test, the basic CRP won’t give you the detail you need.
  • Lipoprotein Fractionation
    Lipoprotein fractionation will provide much more detailed information about your cholesterol. This test can actually count each type of cholesterol molecule, and identify the size and density of them thereby giving you a lot more information about your cholesterol risk. Not all cholesterol is the same, and using the standard lipid test doesn’t provide enough detail should you need to take action.

  Imaging

  • DEXA scan
    Can reveal an issue with thinning bones before you get into trouble with fractures. And it’s not just for women, as male athletes who do little in the way of weight bearing exercise (cyclists, I’m talking to you!) are just as prone to osteopenia and osteoporosis as women.
  • EKG 
    Will pick up abnormal rhtyhms that aren’t easily felt by you, that can precipitate any number of heart issues.
  • Carotid Ultrasound 
    Measures any plaque accumulation you may have and it can be used as barometer for the overall health of your arteries.
  • Coronary Calcium Scan 
    Will dive deeper than a carotid ultrasound, actually looking at the plaque in the arteries that supply the heart muscles itself with blood.

Note: A good age to consider these tests is 40. Don't wait until you have symptoms to get these tests done!

Your doctor may or may not (probably not) want to do all of these tests on you, because after all, you’re really healthy. If your doctor isn’t a willing participant in your pursuit of health excellence and prevention, time to say bye-bye and find one that is.

And if you’re having trouble finding or getting these tests run on yourself, reach out to us because we can help you get them done.

Dr. Jason Barker
Dr. Jason Barker


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