Blood all over the kitchen, multiple stab wounds and a lot of swearing – no, not a crime scene but husband and I trying to take an at-home health check recently. Here at The Age-Well Project we’re always interested in monitoring our wellbeing, and I’d been keen to try a DIY test for a while. So when I spotted a 50% offer for a testing kit called Thriva, I decided to invest.
We filled out questionnaires online, and two neatly-packed boxes arrived a day or so later. They contained miniature test tubes, spring-loaded lancets and a lot of instructions. The first one was not to do the test until we’d fasted for eight hours, easy to do overnight, of course. We dipped our ring fingers in warm water to get the blood flowing, set up the dinky little test tubes (only a few drops of blood needed to fill that, we thought) and pressed a spring-loaded lancet to our fingers.
The information video had explained that when we released the spring, the lancet would pierce our fingers, but it wouldn’t hurt. IT DID! Having stabbed ourselves, we then (please look away if you’re squeamish) had to pump the blood into the test tubes. The tubes managed to be both so tiny that it was impossible to accurately drip each drop of precious blood into the tube, and so enormous that filling it seemed to take (to quote Hancock’s Half Hour) an armful. In the end, we both had to use all three of the lancets provided to harvest enough blood. So that was three stabbed fingers each and a lot of pumping of blood (and quite a bit of swearing by husband).
For someone as obsessed with their own health as I am, the results were fascinating. They come with a brief explanation from a doctor about what they mean, which is helpful. I had plenty of ‘normals’:
- B12 – important for the formation of red blood cells, heart and brain health
- CRP – a measure of inflammation and we know that ‘inflamm-ageing’ is key to much of the frailty of old age
- HbA1c (Diabetes) – this is a test of how much glucose is attached to haemoglobin (a protein found in red blood cells) which can indicate pre- or full-blown diabetes
- Free thyroxine (FT4) – a marker for thyroid function
Some ‘optimals’, which made me feel very proud:
- Ferritin – an indicator of iron levels
- Triglyceride/HDL cholesterol levels – linked to LDL particle size and heart health
- Liver function
- Vitamin D – I took the test in early Autumn so my levels will have been boosted by summer sun, plus I take a supplement
Annoyingly, my iron levels couldn’t be tested because my blood cells burst (must have been all that pumping) and I didn’t get a result for thyroid-stimulating hormone because there wasn’t enough blood for the lab to process. I couldn’t believe that – I felt I’d given gallons!
To my surprise, my LDL cholesterol levels were a little elevated. I need to investigate this further because I eat very little saturated fat, don’t smoke, hardly drink these days, exercise regularly and I’m not overweight. There’s a link between raised cholesterol in midlife and increased risk of dementia, so it’s something I really need to deal with. I’ll report back. Even more concerningly, my omega-3 to omega-6 ratio is out of whack. I’d expected it to be in the normal range as I consume plenty of omegas-3s (oily fish, walnuts, chia seeds) and little by way of seed oils and fast foods, the main sources of omega-6 in our diets.
A recent study by the American Heart Association reports that, in rebalancing our omega-3 to omega-6 ratios the emphasis should be on consuming more omega-3 and worrying less about eliminating omega-6 fats completely. I’ve upped my omega-3 intake – I realised I’d slipped back on the sardines that form the mainstay of my WFH lunches – and started taking a krill oil supplement. Annabel and I aren’t mad about taking lots of supplements as part of our Age-Well Project, but I want to redress the balance quickly and omega-3 is critical to brain health. I’ve chosen to take krill oil rather than a regular omega 3 supplement because it’s high in the phospholipids which cross the blood-brain barrier and deliver essential fatty acids direct to the brain. As an ApoE4 carrier, my blood-brain barrier is likely to be compromised and to make it harder for these phospholipids to get to where they need to be.
And is it working? Thriva sent me a reminder that I should take another test, but I just can’t face the trauma again! Perhaps when the world feels like a slightly cheerier place I’ll be able to steel myself for more stabbing…
…..Do let us know if you’ve ever taken a home health test, and how it went, in the comments below.
AN AGE-WELL WEBINAR FOR POSITIVE PAUSE
I’m repeating my webinar Ageing Well: How to Live Longer Healthier and Happier in Midlife and Menopause for Positive Pause on Wednesday November 11th at 7pm. It’s packed with powerful age-well strategies that fit into your every-day life and I’ll be answering your questions too. I’ll even throw in some recipes! The event will be recorded and will be available online if you can’t make it for the live Zoom event. Ticket details here:
See you there!