Lab Tests for Healthy Aging
Since 1983, Life Extension has suggested that aging people undergo yearly medical testing as part of a general health and longevity program. Having annual lab tests can alert you and your doctor to potential health threats and inform you about age-related changes taking place in your body.
Comprehensive lab testing can be obtained directly and inexpensively, without the need to go to a doctor’s office. This is fortunate because taking personal responsibility for monitoring and maintaining one’s health is crucial for anyone planning on pursuing a long and healthy life. Basic blood chemistry panels performed during routine yearly physicals may be insensitive to subtle age-related physiological changes that more robust blood testing can detect. For instance, the influence of sex hormones on wellbeing and general health is considerable, but basic conventional blood testing does not assess hormones.
Another problem with relying on conventional blood testing is that so-called “normal” reference ranges might not highlight subtle health issues (Lim 2015; Grote Beverborg 2015; Arslan 2016). Blood test reference ranges are established based on the normal distribution (ie, a bell curve) of results observed within a relatively small sample of “healthy” individuals from the population (Smellie 2006; Cox 1990; Hoermann 2012; Brooks 2012; Whitley 2002). However, a significant portion of the “healthy” population of modernized countries suffers suboptimal health related to poor diet and lifestyle. Thus, ranges normal for the population may not necessarily reflect truly healthy ranges. Standard reference ranges are useful for detecting overt pathologies, but may not be sensitive to mild deviations from ideal values among individuals interested in pursuing optimal health.
It is also critical to keep in mind that results from a single lab test are generally not definitive. This is especially true for lab values marginally outside normal ranges. By chance alone, about 5% of healthy people will have “abnormal” lab values (about 2.5% will be “low” and about 2.5% will be “high”). In fact, if a person does a comprehensive blood test yearly for several years, the likelihood that he or she will never have a single abnormal result is extremely low even if he or she does not have an actual health problem. Lab tests become much more informative when repeated over time so trends can be observed.
In this protocol, you will read about many important laboratory tests that can be undertaken regularly to inform your health outlook. For many of these tests, you will also learn that so-called “normal” reference ranges for results may be somewhat misleading, and discover ranges that Life Extension considers optimal.
This protocol does not contain an exhaustive list of laboratory tests; it only covers those deemed by Life Extension to be of importance to general healthy aging for most people. There are many more lab tests available, any number of which may be appropriate for specific medical concerns; an alphabetical list of all lab tests available through Life Extension is available on our website. Also, additional lab tests relevant to given health concerns are included in protocols on specific topics.
Note: Ranges and measurements discussed in this protocol apply to tests conducted by LabCorp. Tests conducted by other labs, such as Quest Diagnostics, may use different methods and thus have different reference values. Reference ranges based on testing at one lab should not be applied to results obtained via a different lab.