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Get Healthy: 7 Tests And Essentials To Optimize Your Well-Being

09/19/2011 07:51 EDT | Updated 11/18/2011 05:12 EST

With chronic illness being linked more and more to diet, lifestyle and environmental factors, now is the time to reevaluate your current healthcare plan. Are you eating too much sugar? Should you work to lower your blood pressure? Do you need to increase your daily physical activity? These seven must-dos will help you and your doctor target the areas you need to work on to ensure you lead a long, healthy life.

Get A General Physical Exam

Most of us have had a general physical exam at some point in our lives. But most of us can go years without having one. This annual trip to your doctor can save you dozens of trips to the hospital or other medical specialists in the long run. The general physical ensures your eyes, ears, skin, heart, lungs, lymph nodes, gastrointestinal tract, prostate (for men), breasts and cervix are all healthy. You can even ask your doctor to perform a cardiovascular stress test -- which tests how strong your lungs and heart are.

Do Regular Comprehensive Blood Testing

Usually part of the core physical exam, a thorough blood test panel is a fundamental part of building your customized health and wellness plan. We're all unique, and blood tests will help you gain an understanding of how your organs function, how healthy your cardiovascular system is, where your hormone levels naturally rest and whether you're at risk for any chronic diseases. These tests also measure blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

Be Active Daily

There is no magic pill, supplement or treatment that will ever replace the benefits of regular physical activity -- it reduces stress, keeps weight and blood pressure and cholesterol levels in check, and helps you sleep. That doesn't mean you have to rush out and join a gym that's close to you, nor does it mean you have to start training for a marathon. Whatever it takes to get your sweat on -- whether it's a brisk walk, a run, a bike ride, gardening, doing laps at your local pool or playing a racquet sport -- will work.

Identify Hidden Food Intolerances/Allergies/Sensitivities

Are you suffering from digestion issues or skin problems? Do you feel sluggish or not as mentally sharp as you once were? Most of us chalk this up to aging, but modern science is showing many of these issues (and many more) can be linked to hidden food intolerances that upset the natural balance of our system. A simple and effective blood test can check both immediate (IgE) and delayed (IgG) food reactions to help you identify what's upsetting your body. From there, you can work with a naturopathic doctor or nutritionist to remove foods causing allergies/sensitivities from your diet.

Optimize Your Sleep

Fifty to 60 per cent of North Americans don't get enough restful sleep. Sleep is essential to repair and strengthen our body, to fortify our immune system, to balance hormones and to give our brains the break it needs. Ensuring optimal daily exercise, eating a diet low in refined sugars, keeping caffeine in check and managing stress levels are key steps in creating optimal sleep patterns. Also be sure to build an optimal sleep environment -- your room should be a "cold, dark cave."

Test For (And Remove) Toxic Metals From Your Environment

At some point from the air we breathe, water we drink, food we eat and homes we live in, we will be exposed to some heavy metals, including mercury, aluminum and lead. These powerful neurotoxins tend to be stored in our body's fatty tissue/organs. And current research is showing these metals may be linked to the increase in rates of cancer, heart disease, psychiatric disorders and other neurological issues. The good news is you can test for these metals to see if they're present in your system. If you find out they are, they can be moved -- with assistance from a naturopathic doctor or your family practitioner -- through a process called chelation (pronounced kee-lay-shun).

Keep Your Hormones In Check

Hormones affect how we look, feel, think, sleep, workout, have sex and age. And the glands that secrete these hormones -- the thyroid, ovaries, testes and adrenals -- are highly sensitive to things like stress or weight gain. To keep you on the path of health and wellness and to obtain an understanding of your hormonal baseline, ask your doctor for a simple blood/saliva hormone test. From there, you can evaluate where your hormone levels may be "off" and then you and your doctor can come up with a plan to rebalance everything.

Dr. John Dempster is a Naturopathic Doctor in Toronto. He's the founder of The Dempster Clinic -- Center for Integrated Medicine and embraces the biochemical uniqueness of each patient. With a large focus on regenerative and anti-aging medicine, he focuses on optimizing nutritional and biochemical imbalances. Dr. D can be contacted through his website, www.thedempsterclinic.com.

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