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6 key markers in our new Diet and Lifestyle Checks - and how to improve them.
Here at Medichecks, we think it is important to have regular health checks to see if there are any changes we could be making to improve our health and prevent illness. Our new Diet and Lifestyle Checks measure a number of different health markers and are the perfect way to actively monitor how lifestyle choices are affecting our health. Read below to discover more about 6 key health markers included in our new tests and the steps we can take to improve them.
Cortisol is an important steroid hormone released by the body during times of stress and is involved in controlling metabolism and blood pressure. It is not unusual to have an abnormal cortisol result, and once the more serious conditions like Addison's Disease (where the adrenal gland produces too little cortisol) or Cushing's Syndrome (where it produces too much) have been ruled out, the key culprit is usually chronic stress. Managing stress, getting at least 7 hours of sleep a night and exercising regularly are all excellent ways to help maintain healthy cortisol levels.
Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas which is responsible for turning glucose taken from the food we eat into energy that our body can use. Insulin helps the body store excess glucose for use later when levels in the blood are low. If we eat too much sugar, insulin levels in the blood increase and over time our cells can become resistant to its effects. High insulin levels can be a sign of early-stage diabetes.
Surprisingly, over recent years there is increasing evidence to suggest that insulin also plays a role in the ageing process of the brain. An interesting paper published this year found that high levels of insulin circulating in the blood is linked to the progression of neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease.
Regular exercise, losing excess weight, cutting the carbs and increasing the amount of fibre we eat can all help to lower high insulin levels to minimise the risks of diabetes.
Vitamin D which is commonly referred to as the ‘sunshine vitamin’, is important in maintaining healthy teeth, muscles and bones. When we are exposed to the sun, our body creates vitamin D using nutrients obtained from certain foods including oily fish.
Many of us in the UK are vitamin D deficient - with symptoms including muscle weakness, mood swings and fatigue. By implementing a few easy lifestyle changes such as getting out more in the sunshine, increasing the amount of oily fish we eat and taking a vitamin D supplement, we can change our vitamin D levels for the better.
Vitamin B12 is necessary for keeping our blood cells healthy and helping to make DNA - the important genetic material present in all our cells. Our bodies absorb this vitamin from our diet and the best food sources include dairy products, meat and fish. Low B12 levels can lead to anaemia and symptoms including fatigue, feeling faint and constant headaches.
Certain conditions can affect the body's ability to absorb vitamin B12, as can a reduction in stomach acid as we get older. People with hypothyroidism have an increased risk of pernicious anaemia which makes it difficult to absorb vitamin B12. Vegetarians and vegans are also at risk of low vitamin B12 as there are almost no plant sources of this vitamin, yeast flakes are a good source which can be added to vegetarian foods. Raising our B12 levels can be as simple as taking a daily or weekly supplement, but if that doesn't improve levels then you may need a regular injection from your GP.
Cholesterol is a fatty substance found in every cell in our body, which is produced naturally by the liver and also obtained from our diet. It is vital for the maintenance of cell membranes, production of vitamin D and also of testosterone and oestrogen. High levels of cholesterol can increase our risk of developing heart disease and stroke. Through lifestyle changes such as eating more fruit, vegetables and whole grains along with reducing the amount of saturated fat in our diets, we can lower our cholesterol levels and reduce these risks.
Gamma GT (GGT) is an enzyme present in the liver which helps break down toxins in the body. Levels of GGT in the blood are often raised when the liver is damaged and is most often caused by excess alcohol consumption or by medication. The GGT test included in our Diet and Lifestyle Check Plus helps to determine whether the amount of alcohol we drink is damaging the liver. Reducing our alcohol consumption can help lower our GGT levels and reduce the risk of developing liver disease.
Along with these 6 markers, there are a number of other tests included in our range of Diet and Lifestyle Checks including iron, calcium and magnesium.