Blood testing is one of the most powerful ways to know about yourself and your health. If you are tracking other aspects of your life, then I recommend tracking your blood too. Blood testing will tell you if you have a disease (or predisposed to one), how your organs are functioning, the effectiveness of medicines, supplements, or fitness regimes, or even if you are pregnant. Blood tests are quite easy and fast, and they provide a wealth of information.
Blood is a bodily fluid that handles several important biological functions. Like checking the oil to know a car’s engine, you can understand the state of your body and its organs by testing and examining your blood and its constituent parts.
While blood testing may come with a periodic medical check-up, they are often reserved for when you have a medical problem and need a more intensive evaluation for a disease. By contrast, I would argue that everyone should get their blood work done regularly and not exclusively when you are sick. Moreover, everyone should gain a basic understanding about what is blood testing and how to read lab results. Your blood tests can help you optimize for wellness and performance. You should consider tracking your results too.
For me, as a self-tracker, understanding my blood and blood testing are logical extensions of a more comprehensive regime to track my health, productivity and life. Blood testing is a form of professional manual tracking. They aren’t hard, but unlike other forms of passive or manual tracking, blood tests require professional equipment, time, and money.
Blood testing can cost as little as 20-50 dollars to several hundred dollars depending on the specific tests. Personally I get my blood tests a few times a year, including at least one comprehensive health panel per year. I use various DIY blood testing services like Life Extension.
Unfortunately, like much of the medical space, blood testing can feel highly professionalized and difficult to understand for the layperson. This is unfortunate since blood testing results shouldn’t be the domain of experts nor exclusively used when you are unwell. In fact, blood tests should be something any health-conscious person can get done regularly and can easily learn to understand.
In this series of posts on blood tracking, I want to look at a range topics related to blood and how it can be used to help self-trackers and people in general understand their health.
Admittedly this is a topic that can get pretty technical. Even getting started tends to unravel into a new vocabulary and obscure acronyms. I’ll do my best to approach an explanation of blood testing step by step and cover the essentials and most useful aspects.
My emphasis is on how to use blood testing as a measurement for getting feedback on your body and yourself. I want to use blood testing as a framework for being “data-driven” in your health decisions and health tracking.
Here is the plan: First, in this post, we will look at why you should do get regular blood tests and some of the basic aspects of blood testing. In later posts, we will be examining some of the best blood tests, how to read your initial results and how to track your blood work over time. While the main focus will be some of the most common blood tests, I will highlight a few specific blood biomarkers and blood tests (like Vitamin D and Homocysteine) that are particularly beneficial. Finally we will look at some resources and steps you might use to create a data-driven process around your blood testing, your health changes and lifestyle improvements.
Let’s get started by looking at what is blood and blood testing.