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Gina Cousineau

By Gina Cousineau

As a nutritionist, most people come to me for weight loss, but due to my training in integrative and functional nutrition, my goal is to help my clients live long, healthy, independent, joyful lives.

So, along with a sustainable nutrition approach to lose the weight and keep it off, it is imperative that I teach them to take responsibility for advocating for their health and, in turn, their lives.

All too often clients share with me that their physicians didn’t recommend preventative screenings, nor communicate that “out of range” lab values were concerning. With this, I have uncovered a host of health concerns that threaten to lead to years of disability and shorten my clients’ lives.

Here is a list of labs, covered by insurance, which I believe are warranted, and necessary, for all ages, along with a host of preventative screenings suggested along the lifespan:

  • Complete Blood Count (CBC): Evaluates general health and can detect a variety of diseases and conditions, such as infections, anemia, and blood cancers.
  • Complete Metabolic Panel: Can help determine general health status and monitor kidney and liver disease, hypertension, and diabetes. This test should be done in a fasted state.
  • Fasting Glucose and Hemoglobin A1c: These tests are often used in conjunction to assess and monitor diabetes and related glucose dysfunction.
  • Lipid Panel: Useful in assessing risk of developing (and monitoring) cardiovascular disease.  This test is done after fasting, as well.
  • Thyroid Panel: These tests can evaluate thyroid gland function, along with monitoring thyroid disorders. If you take thyroid hormone, blood draw should be prior to taking your medication.
  • Vitamin D: Vitamin D plays a role in immune function, bone health, and more, and we as a population are typically deficient.
  • Vitamin B12: Useful in diagnosing anemia and neuropathy, and nutritional status for those over 50, as well as monitoring those being treated for B12 or folate deficiency.

Preventative Screening Tests:

  1. Regular Monitoring of Blood Pressure (all ages)
  2. Yearly Blood Lipid Panel (especially with those with family history and/or consuming standard American diet)
  3. Colonoscopies (starting at 45 or 10 years prior to youngest family member with diagnosis)
  4. Bone Density Scan (for all with history of eating disorders and/or dieting or malnutrition throughout the lifespan)
  5. Yearly Skin Cancer Checks for the entire family (more often with family history of melanoma or previous abnormal findings)

This year alone in my patient population, we have uncovered colorectal cancer in a client nine years overdue for a colonoscopy, an epidemic of osteoporosis and osteopenia (thinning bones), and significant cardiovascular disease, all of which were preventable, treatable, and/or curable, with regular screening and testing.

When looking at these tests above, I too often hear of patients whose blood lipids were out of range, or pre-diabetic, and told simply to lose weight, eat healthier, and exercise.

While our medical care system doesn’t allow for the time necessary to further assess risk, I help my clients look at these areas in-depth, assessing family and personal medical histories, accounting for past nutrition and exercise experiences, along with these tests/screenings.

In most cases, I insist on a deeper dive to assess risk, with additional labs and screenings, usually with the appropriate medical specialists, like a cardiologist and endocrinologist.

My recommendation is to start with a primary care provider that is a good listener. Go to healthcare.gov, as well as your insurance provider, and print out these lists of recommended labs and screenings to discuss at your next appointment and be ready to advocate for your health and life.

Gina Cousineau sees clients virtually and in person out of her San Clemente office. Her extensive education—a BS in dietetics and MS in integrative and functional nutrition—chef training, and 30-plus years as a fitness professional allow her to help clients lose weight and improve their health. You can reach her at mamag@mamagslifestyle.com, 949.842.9975, and on Instagram and Facebook @mamagslifestyle. Register for her complimentary weekly newsletter at mamagslifestyle.com.

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