My leading motivation for losing weight has always been to improve my health. Before I started losing weight (back at 270 pounds), my underlying health (or lack thereof) would pop into my head, usually when I was ill and I would start to really worry. It’s difficult to truly care about your health when you were shoving pretty much any and all fatty food into your mouth, smoking like a chimney, and the most exercise you ever took was walking back and forth to the fridge. There were periods of caring (dieting and exercising) but none ever stuck long term.
This all changed, as I’ve discussed previously, when my parents died. My mum’s sudden death in 2013, then my dad’s drawn out illness and death in 2015 really brought health to the focus of my life. Death staring you in the face can be a powerful tool for change, and I found I wanted to live a long and happy life.
When it comes to being really truly healthy, losing weight is really one step of many. When I started calorie counting my diet was still far from optimal, I did eat some plant based foods but nowhere near enough, still barely exercised, I calorie counted junk. But I still lost weight which was good enough, to begin with anyway.
When I went vegan I gradually transformed my diet, moving further and further towards plants. That is when I began the real research of health, and what being healthy really meant. I listened to podcasts, read blogs and books, spoke with knowledgeable people. I have spent a lot of time researching how to improve my health. I take the supplements I believe I need (Vitamin B12 and D), I try to eat a wide variety of plant foods, exercise, get enough sleep, meditate, generally look after myself to the best of my ability as time allows. I slowly lose weight, I feel good, but do I know if my health has actually improved? I know I definitely feel better, but not knowing about a number of key health measurable’s definitely causes me some consternation. I have always had an interest in health monitoring, I’ve had multiple iterations of Fitbit’s over the years, and very happily report that my heart rate is 20 bpm lower than it used to be thanks to losing the weight I have so far.
Some of my favourite vegan Youtubers (specifically springing to mind is Happy Healthy Vegan) fairly regularly take a blood test for health and then post their results publicly. Ryan from Happy Healthy Vegan had posted his results after his online arguments with Shaun Baker, infamous from his ridiculous carnivore diet, and his terrible blood test results.
Recently, myself and a friend who is very interested in health and fitness had a number of conversations relating to taking blood tests for health, and personal health screening. He recommended checking out the online company Medichecks, who he had used a number of times before, and said they were quick with getting the results back to you and reasonably priced.
I took a look at their site and saw that they offer a large list of personal health tests, depending on what results you are looking for. Most of these tests are taken via a finger prick, but you can also arrange for some to be taken venously. I was keen on doing the test myself, time constraints making arranging the venous test difficult.
My budget wasn’t huge, and the choice was wide and varied so instead of uming and ahing for a long time, after a browse I decided to just go for the baseline fit test which cost £55 (down from £69 with a new member discount). The name certainly indicated it would give me what I wanted, an idea of my baseline fitness, and test gives 16 results covering a variety of areas:
- Liver Function
- Gamma GT
- Overall Cholesterol
- HDL Cholsterol
- LDL Cholsterol
- Non HDL Cholesterol
- Heart Disease Risk
- HDL % of Total
- Inflammation Marker
- B12 Active
The tests I was most interested in were for Cholesterol, Iron, Vitamin B12 and D. For Cholesterol I have always been interested to know what my measurements are. I didn’t have cholesterol tested when I was 5+ stone heavier and eating a diet full of animal products but my guess is that it surely it would have been pretty high. As I’m still overweight, and heart disease being the biggest killer in the Western world, cholesterol measurements are of interest to me. Iron is something I think about fairly regularly, worrying am I eating enough green vegetables to get to the required intake? It’s difficult to know purely by diet. Most of the country is deficient in B12, and I often forget to take my supplement, and D is just difficult to get in certain countries, the UK being one. The rest of the results would be interesting to give me a baseline reading but these the above were the statistics I was really interested in.
The whole ordering process was straightforward, there was a section where you could add some information and in here I noted that I had lost 5 stone, was vegan and was looking for some general health information after having lost so much weight. There was the option to receive doctors feedback although apparently this can make it slightly slower. I chose to take this, as I felt the interpretation of results would be handy especially as it was the first time taking the test.
Once I had ordered my test, I input my health and lifestyle details and received feedback on these via their Health & Lifestyle dashboard. I was pretty pleased, I know a follow a healthy lifestyle but there is clearly room for improvement, especially in the BMI and body fat readings (I’m trying Medichecks, I’m trying!)
Medichecks recommends that you stop taking your supplements before the test, so I duly did this, and after a few days a parcel arrived at my house and was waiting for me when I got home from work. The box itself was very well packed and presented professionally.
On opening all of the required items were laid out nicely, the instructions were very clear and all round, considering taking blood is never really a nice thing to do, they made it very straightforward.
What you receive inside the box differs depending on what test you are taking. My box only required one sample bottle of blood so on the left had a plastic container which held the bottle inside. At the top there are four finger prick devices and at the bottom right there are extensive instructions in how to carry out the test. Behind the instructions is a pre-paid return bag that you hand in to any post office.
Whenever I have blood taken at the doctors it has always been problematic, usually resorting to a vein on the back of my hand. It’s safe to say I was definitely a little concerned about the ability of the finger prick device to get enough blood for the test. Medichecks recommend taking the blood test in the morning, and my friend suggested a holding a hot drink to bring the blood flow to the surface of your skin, so I duly got myself ready while drinking my usual black coffee.
I opened the bottle, and within the box there is a little cardboard hole you can place it in so you all you need to do is hold your finger above and let gravity drip the blood in. There were two lines on the bottle and my instructions said to fill to the second line, it looked like quite a lot of blood!
I took out the finger prick device and suddenly felt nervous that it was going to hurt. I went with my left middle finger, and pressed down on the pad. A tiny bead of blood came out and I thought here we go! I stood up and held my finger over the bottle and the blood flow stopped almost immediately. Massaging my finger pushed out one other tiny drop but nothing after that. My initial thought was that I had just wasted £55 as I wouldn’t be able to get this required blood out.
As they provide 4 finger pricks, I moved onto a new finger, my fourth finger but this time went for the tip rather than the pad. Instantly the blood flow was different, faster. I held my finger over the bottle and it filled up incredibly quickly. It barely needed massaged at all, and in about 20 seconds I was done. I cleaned myself up, plastered my pricked fingers and screwed the cap on the bottle. You fill in a sticker with your name, date and time of test, and put the bottle within the plastic container the provide, then put this, along with the return note in the plastic bag. It is important to remember the return note as this tells them which test you are due to have carried out, without this they won’t even do the test.
That day at lunchtime I took my sample to the nearest post office and sent it away. The wait was on for results. Part 2 will be coming next week so if you are interested keep an eye out for this.
If anyone is thinking about giving Medichecks a try for personal blood tests for health then you can use the affiliate code given to me by my friend of WMAC10, this will give you 10% off the standard price.