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Underutilized Tests in Traditional Medicine

When we contemplate primary care, many of us feel uninspired. The fortunate few enjoy enduring relationships with primary care physicians who not only tend to them during times of vulnerability but also support them along their preventive health journey. Despite the numerous advances in medicine over the last few decades, it often takes an average of 15 years for new standards to be embraced within mainstream medicine. This leaves patients often unaware of novel tools that can offer invaluable insights, enabling them to make transformative changes that contribute to longer, healthier lives. Here are several tests that are underutilized in traditional practice, often due to many reasons, including insurance reimbursement:

  1. Apo B: A protein involved in lipid metabolism and found in certain lipoproteins, including LDL cholesterol. Measuring Apo B levels can provide insight into cardiovascular risk beyond traditional cholesterol measurements.
  2. Lp(a): A type of lipoprotein similar to LDL cholesterol. Elevated levels of Lp(a) are associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, including heart attacks and strokes. Testing for Lp(a) levels can help assess cardiovascular risk more comprehensively.
  3. Sex Hormones: Imbalances may contribute to various health issues, including certain metabolic conditions, cardiovascular disorders, sexual dysfunction, and even mental health.
  4. Thyroid Hormones: Play a crucial role in metabolism, energy regulation, and overall health.
  5. Dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DEXA) body composition: A method used to measure body composition, including bone density, muscle mass, and body fat percentage. It is commonly used to assess osteoporosis risk and monitor changes in body composition over time, which can be helpful in tracking progress against one’s goals.
  6. Calcium score: Obtained through a specialized CT scan that measures the amount of calcium in the coronary arteries. A high calcium score indicates a higher risk of coronary artery disease and may prompt further evaluation and preventive measures.
  7. CT Angiogram: A non-invasive imaging technique used to visualize the blood vessels, including the arteries and veins. It is often used to diagnose conditions such as arterial blockages, aneurysms, and vascular malformations. Factoring the findings into decision-making regarding statin initiation in specific individuals can be powerful.
  8. Liquid biopsy: A minimally invasive technique that involves analyzing biomarkers, such as circulating tumor cells (CTCs) and cell-free DNA (cfDNA), found in bodily fluids like blood or urine. It is used for early cancer detection, monitoring treatment response, and detecting genetic mutations associated with cancer.

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