Good idea to get blood work done occasionally?

After listening to the audiobook version of “The Sports Gene” and learning the importance of hemoglobin and hematocrit, I looked back at my blood work results from last year.

I found that my hemoglobin level was solidly on the anemic side while my hematocrit levels were few percent lower than they had been in previous years.

It occurred to me that it might be a good idea to occasionally get blood work done just to make sure that my blood isn’t limiting my potential performance.

As anyone else do this?

I wonder if taking a multivitamin as insurance might be a good idea as well.

On another note, are there any blood test that tell you how much total blood volume you have? Apparently more is better… hehehe.

In medicine we don't really follow labs annually just because we are curious. There needs to be an indication to perform a lab. Now in your case you probably have a reason to get labs drawn. I don't know your hemoglobin or hematocrit but if it was low and you are concerned about it you should bring it up with your primary care. I hope this isn't the case for you, but it is within the realm of possibilities that your provider missed your low hemoglobin/hematocrit so if you have a concern you should bring it to their attention.

As for vitamins there isn't much evidence that they make any difference unless there is a vitamin deficiency. I don't remember the podcast episode but at some point Chad did a deep dive on supplements if you wanted to hear more. In my opinion you would be better off saving the money you would spend on vitamins and buy something for your bike.

And lastly there is no practical way to measure your blood volume. And even if you did there isn't much you can do change it outside of your normal range (it does change based on hydration).

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Assuming you did blood work periodically and found your numbers on the low end of normal, for example, what would you do about it? As the other poster responded, numbers outside of normal are potentially indicative of a health problem, so getting blood work as part of a regular physical is important, but outside of that you’re just fulfilling curiosity, not enhancing performance.

There’s no scientific evidence that multivitamin have any positive effects unless you’re suffering from some kind of deficiency. Obviously doesn’t hurt to take one, of course, but don’t expect it to increase your performance.

A few percentage points difference on hematocrit tests years apart is probably not meaningful. Maybe if you tested regularly and had a trend to look at… If your blood tests indicate being solidly anemic then you should have your doc work it up.

There are various services out there now that want to sell you a package of blood marker monitoring. For example:

https://www.insidetracker.com/

Is it worth spending $500/year on? I’m not sure. My guess is that it would probably not make a meaningful impact on your fitness unless you found a specific deficiency. Maybe it will push you to eat better to reduce your inflammation or something like that?

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I get a physical every year.

Its important to get one.
Better chances of finding stuff if you keep doing it.

Last year my doctor was worried about high levels of liver enzymes.

Well, turns out that having blood test a day after a Olympic Triathlon will adversaly affect some values…
Who knew!

:man_shrugging:

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I live in a country where I can get lab work done pretty much on requests for very little cost.

I’m not really worried about hematocrit as it depends largely on plasma volume.

If I’m still anemic at my next physical I will definitely look into it now that I know what the number on the chart was actually referring to…

I get blood work once a year but since the numbers can fluctuate based on a lot of things I wondered if maybe every few months or twice a year wasn’t better for athletes.

I would make sure to get more iron (and the other relevant micronutrients) in my diet and see if that takes care of it.

I’m fairly certain the hospitals here will do do blood work on request here for fairly little money.

I figure if I am anemic it’s probably a vitamin insufficiency.

I have to disagree. I haven’t seen any evidence that having an annual physical, absent specific conditions / chronic conditions that need monitoring, has any benefit. Plus testing without symptoms has the potential to “find something” that isn’t really there / isn’t a problem, and lead to further tests / procedures that you don’t really need.

I do blood work twice a year. I tend to have high numbers Hemoacret. Helps determine is I should donate blood to bring the numbers down. But we are checking pages of numbers most of which stay in line, but sometimes require simple supplements or medicine.

I like having the knowledge if my numbers are in normal ranges or not.

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not getting an annual physical is a good way to let a deadly disease sneak up on you

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Not to be argumentative, but please provide a link to a study that actually demonstrates this / that looks at the cost / benefits for those without a specific issue.

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Cost to whom? I get a free screening at work every year and it only costs me about an hour of time I’m getting paid for anyway.

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The idea of a physical is catching the deltas. Specially once you get pass 40. You want to make sure certain levels of things are kept in check.

Are you in the medical field? You say you haven’t seen evidence, so I’m curious about your back ground. Usually a sample size of 1 is not enough evidence to draw conclusion.

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Yeah, annual screening found my hereditary hemochromatosis which had gone unnoticed to me otherwise. The prior history of blood work and the elevated iron levels in the recent one showed an area to dig into deeper. Subsequent iron analysis and a gene test confirmed my diagnosis.

Not sure how long that would have been before real damage could have occurred, but finding it when we did is something I value from my annual screenings. May be a useless anecdote to others, but it’s quite real to me.

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There is a history of protaste cancer in my family. My maternal and an uncle from my mom side. I like to know the levels of stiff before it’s too late…

That - a history of a hereditary condition is one of the reasons to do annual testing.

But prostate cancer screening for the general male population? Not so much. See the current CDC guidelines on this.

The issue comes down to: for a specific diagnostic test, what are that tests specificity and sensitivity. If you want to see a real world example of this in action, look at the recent spate of world tour pro riders first testing positive for COVID-19, and then a secondary test coming back negative. In this case the harm to the rider (or team) is not being able to start, or having to pull out of, a specific race.

Additionally, the problem with a lot / most of the blood level ranges is that they aren’t scientific set to correspond to a known problem.

Let’s take the example above of “low” hematocrit level. According to the Mayo Clinic

Normal ranges vary substantially with race, age and sex. The definition of normal red-blood cell percentage also varies from one medical practice to another.

So there isn’t even an agreed upon “normal range”. So what does “low”, unless it is very low, mean / indicate?

I think that simply means that “normal” depends on context. What’s high for a healthy athlete after the Tour de France might be low for a COPD patient.

Again, hematocrit isn’t as important as the total oxygen carrying capacity of all the blood in your body.
I’m more concerned about having low hemoglobin, considering that high hemoglobin in an otherwise healthy person is advantageous, so low hemoglobin must be a disadvantage.