Young woman on couching thinking of getting a blood test

5 Top Lab Tests Everyone Should Take

When it comes to your health, knowing your numbers is essential—and no, we’re not just talking about calories or the number on a scale.

Getting annual bloodwork is a key part of staying well, especially as we age. As part of preventive care, lab tests help you identify any nutritional deficiencies, infections, conditions or diseases early on—so you can be proactive about lifestyle changes and seeking treatment.

Here are our top recommendations for lab tests every health-conscious person should take.

1. Comprehensive testing panels for men and women

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Comprehensive and health-focused blood test for men and women

If there's one test you should take every year, make it a comprehensive panel based on your sex. Life Extension's Female Panel and Male Panel tests evaluate insulin levels, cholesterol levels, blood sugar levels, magnesium, important health biomarkers such as homocysteine and c-reactive protein levels, which may reflect your inflammatory response and overall heart health, and much more.

As Life Extension's Blood Lab Manager, Dylan Blaiwes explains, "These blood tests are the best starting points on seeing a complete picture of how your body's working."

What exactly do male and female panel tests assess? Here's an overview.

  • Complete blood count (CBC): This blood test "counts" the number of cells that circulate in your blood (red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets). The ratio of these blood cells provides information regarding your immune system, the possibility of an infection, any blood disorder, nutritional deficiencies—and even your body's ability to clot or stop any bleeding.
  • Ferritin: Go beyond CBC to check in on your iron with this evaluation of your levels of ferritin, a protein produced mainly in the liver to store iron. You'll get a more accurate portrait of your iron status than by looking at serum alone. "This is a new addition to our Male and Female panel tests," Blaiwes pointed out.
  • Metabolic panel with lipids: According to Blaiwes, "This test is the cornerstone of any complete lab work because it shines a light on your body's ability to metabolize sugars and fats, electrolyte status, important minerals for bone health, and liver and kidney function, as well as an array of markers that can help assess cardiovascular health or any health-concerning risks."
  • Hormones: The test includes a TSH (thyroid-stimulating hormone) blood test and checks your levels of DHEA-s, which is produced by your adrenal glands. It assesses levels of estradiol, free and total testosterone, prostate-specific antigen (PSA) for men and progesterone for women. Why is this part of the panel so important? Hormone balance is vital for a healthy immune response, wake/sleep patterns, sexual function, energy, mood, muscle mass, bone density and metabolism.
  • Levels of "D" sunshine vitamin: A star player in whole-body health, vitamin D supports everything from immune health and bone density to heart health, respiratory health and even your mood.

2. A thyroid test

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Healthy thyroid hormone production means a healthy you from head-to-toe

Your thyroid is a small gland at the base of the front of your neck that produces hormones essential for a healthy metabolism, or how your body breaks down food to make energy. Since thyroid hormones regulate your heartbeat, body temperature, breathing and more, maintaining a healthy thyroid is key to a long, fulfilling life.

That's why regularly testing your thyroid is key. Life Extension's Thyroid Panel gives you a "more in-depth thyroid screening, particularly important for weight management concerns," explained Blaiwes.

The panel contains four tests and evaluates overall thyroid function:

  • Thyroid-Stimulating Hormone (TSH)
  • Total thyroxine (T4)
  • Free thyroxine (T4)
  • Free tri-iodothyronine (T3)

If you're concerned because you don't see results from the thyroid medication you're taking, "getting a thyroid test is an important piece of the puzzle," noted Life Extension's Education Specialist, Dr. Crystal M. Gossard. "It provides comprehensive insight of how well the body is converting the medication into active hormones."

3. Get the lowdown on your lipids

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Healthy fats, happy heart

Lipids, including cholesterol, are essential to your cells' healthy structure and their efficient energy production. However, elevated levels of cholesterol can increase heart disease risk. Your primary care doctor likely will check your cholesterol every year, but if you only test for "LDL, HDL, or triglycerides, you're only getting part of the story," Blaiwes pointed out.

The NMR LipoProfile® test not only provides a standard cholesterol screening, but it also measures the number of large, protective LDL particles, and small, dense high-risk particles critical in evaluating coronary heart disease risk.

The panel contains the following tests.

  • LDL particle number (LDL-P)
  • Small LDL particle number (small LDL-P)
  • HDL particle number (HDL-P)
  • LDL particle size and LP-IR
  • Standard lipid panel (including LDL-C, HDL-C, triglycerides and total cholesterol)
  • LP-IR (risk assessment for insulin resistance)

"Knowing your cholesterol levels will help you assess any risk of developing cardiovascular health concerns," Dr. Gossard explained.

4. Check your Omega-3 Index

A healthy collection of food rich in omega 3
Omega-3s are good for a healthy heart and a sharp mind

Often referred to as "good fats," omega-3 fatty acids are essential for cardiovascular and brain health. These good fats are important components of a healthy, well-balanced diet, "which is associated with joint health, mood, and even a lower risk of heart disease," explained Dr. Gossard. That's why she recommends that everyone take the Omega-3 Index Complete Finger Stick Test, which goes beyond just your omega-3 levels.

"It helps assess dietary fats by measuring levels of trans fats, your omega-3 to omega-6 ratio, arachidonic acid to EPA ratio (an important marker of inflammatory health) and provides a full fatty acid profile," Blaiwes added.

Life Extension's omega-3 index test measures the following:

  • Omega-3 Index
  • Trans fat Index
  • Omega-6: Omega-3 Ratio
  • AA: EPA Ratio
  • Complete fatty acid profile including:
    • Omega-3s
    • Omega-6s
    • Monounsaturated fats
    • Saturated fats
    • Trans fats

You can eat fish once a week and take fish oil daily, but as Dr. Gossard pointed out, "how the body absorbs and uses these fatty acids is unique to every person." Monitoring your levels of healthy fats helps you modify your diet accordingly.

5. Microbiome testing to assess gut health

Woman enjoying probiotic-rich yougurt
Get to know your microbiome to support overall health

Your microbiome includes trillions of microorganisms (bacteria, fungi, viruses, bacteriophage and protozoa) that live on and inside your body. What's more, your body relies on them to perform many biological functions that keep you healthy.

The best way to get a thorough screening of your gut's microbiome is with a stool test. Yes, we know (ew), but it's unequivocally valuable in how much it will reveal about your health.

"Unfortunately, most people don't associate digestive issues with food allergies, systemic illnesses, or even autoimmune diseases," said Dr. Gossard. But while it's not a fun test, "it does provide a plethora of information about your overall gut health and how it relates to your well-being," she added.

So, the good news? You get to do it in the privacy of your own home. The not-so-good news? It's a three-day collection stool test. "A three-day collection is necessary for the most clinically relevant analysis of parasites," says Blaiwes.

Here's a quick overview of this comprehensive GI 360™ Stool Test.

  • Three-day parasitology: Provides a focused analysis regarding the presence of any parasite adults, larva, eggs or spores.
  • Microbiome abundance and diversity: Measures the type of microorganisms in your gut and the "good vs. bad" ratio.
  • Microbiology: Can identify at least 170 species of yeast, 80 species of candida and over 1400 species of bacteria.
  • Problematic microorganisms: Identifies 14 of the most common microorganisms that affect your health.
  • Overall (stool) chemistry: Evaluates how well your body digests and absorbs nutrients. It also measures intestinal health markers that can affect how your body manages toxins and your immune and inflammatory health.

Remember, lab tests empower you to own your wellness by knowing your numbers. And they help you discover any daily habits that may be unknowingly keeping you from living your best life—plus, ordering lab tests at Life Extension is as easy as 1-2-3.

About the Author: Jessica Monge has a bachelor's degree in biological sciences & neuroscience and a master's degree in comparative studies and related languages from Florida Atlantic University. She worked as a tutor, freelance writer and editor before joining Life Extension, where she is currently a Digital Content Writer.