Do you ever feel rundown, a bit sickly, like something just isn’t right with your health and you have no idea why? Healthily’s writer Libby Williams tries a DIY blood test to work out why she’s been feeling so tired lately.
Recently, despite sleeping well every night, I’ve been feeling completely exhausted. And with no idea why, I thought I should have a few blood tests to check if my general health could be to blame.
But knowing that recent lockdowns and COVID restrictions have driven up appointment waiting times, I decided to look for a quicker and more convenient way to get a blood test.
That's where Thriva came in. Thriva is a blood testing service that allows you to “take health into your own hands” through personalised tests, insights, support and GP advice. It provides DIY blood tests that can check for many different things from your vitamin D levels to liver function, allowing you to pick and choose your tests for a bespoke package.
I was intrigued to see if posting a few drops of blood to the Thriva lab could shed some light on why I was so exhausted.
Putting Thriva to the test
Not knowing where to start with choosing tests, I took Thriva’s health check quiz to help me build a package. I was asked questions about my diet, fitness, lifestyle, sleep habits, underlying medical conditions, any medication I was taking and some general family medical history.
I was then taken to my Thriva dashboard – it recommended I choose the following 8 tests:
- HbA1c – analyses your average blood sugar levels over the past 3 months to work out your risk for pre-diabetes and diabetes
- advanced iron profile – tests if you have an iron deficiency or too much iron
- thyroid profile – looks at your levels of thyroid hormones. High or low levels may mean you have a thyroid condition like an underactive thyroid or an overactive thyroid
- a high-sensitivity C-reactive protein test (HS-CRP) – a newer test for inflammation, which may be able to predict your risk of getting heart disease
- vitamin B9 & B12 – tests if you have a deficiency of B12 or B9, which play a key role in the functioning of your nervous system, including making red blood cells
- cholesterol – measures a number of cholesterol factors to check your heart health. For example, if you have high cholesterol, you’re more at risk of a heart attack and stroke
- liver function – measures your levels of enzymes and proteins to check how well your liver is functioning and to screen for any liver conditions like hepatitis or cirrhosis
- vitamin D – measures if you have a vitamin D deficiency
For £79 (£63.20 with a 20% discount using the code: HEALTHILY20), I could get a better understanding of what’s going on inside my body.
So I clicked ‘order’ and received my Thriva home blood test kit through my letterbox in less than 24 hours (a much shorter waiting time than at my local surgery!).
Impressively, the small letterbox kit contained everything you need to safely carry out an at-home blood test including:
- 2 collection tubes
- 3 lancets
- a cleansing wipe
- an alcohol swab
- 2 plasters
Let the testing begin!
On a Sunday night after a large helping of spaghetti bolognese, I decided it was time to take the test. But while reading the instructions, I discovered it’s best to do it first thing in the morning after you’ve fasted for 8 hours – this is important for accurate results.
You also need to drink at least 2 glasses of water 30 minutes beforehand, as being hydrated helps your blood flow better.
So the next morning, hungry but hydrated, I was ready to become Dr Libby for the 30 minutes it would take to do the test. There are quite a few steps to help make sure you only have to prick 1 finger, so it’s best to have plenty of time to do it.
After laying out all of the kit on a clean towel and setting up the tubes, I washed my hands and filled a large bowl with warm water.
To help get my blood flowing, I placed my non-dominant hand (left for me) in the bowl for 3 minutes, keeping my hand below my elbow throughout. I followed this up with 1 minute of swinging my arm while standing and clenching and unclenching my fist.
Now that my blood was flowing nicely (and my fingers looked like prunes), it was time to get the lancet out. I cleaned my ring finger using the alcohol wipe and placed my hand palm up on the table. Positioning the lancet on the top right of my fingertip, I pressed down until it clicked. I’d been a little apprehensive about drawing my blood, but thankfully it didn’t hurt more than a regular blood test does (and it was a lot less hassle).
The blood started coming out much quicker than I’d expected, so I grabbed the 2 tubes and filled them up in less than a minute. Once I’d stopped my finger from bleeding, I placed the lids firmly onto the tubes and gave them a swirl as directed.
Now all that was left to do was label the tubes, pop them in the post in the prepaid envelope that had come with the kit and wait for my results. Dr Libby’s job was done.
The big reveal
Only 48 hours after posting my test, I received an email telling me I could view my results in my Thriva dashboard.
As I logged in I was a little nervous, particularly when I spotted a greeting message from one of Thriva’s doctors, Dr S. Kenneally. But thankfully I had nothing to worry about, as Dr Kenneally’s first line to me was, “These results are all normal, which is great news.”
And I felt quite pleased with myself when I read the last line, “Your lifestyle information suggests that you are living in a way that is consistent with longevity and energy.” When I took a closer look at my test results, I realised I’d aced my tests and that they were all within normal ranges.
But, although normal, my HS-CRP result was edging towards the high end. Alongside each test result, you’re offered additional information to help you understand your results and what you can do to change and improve them. I discovered that simple changes like eating a Mediterranean diet and exercising more regularly may help to lower my CRP levels and hopefully reduce inflammation and my risk of heart disease.
I was also given some helpful tips to boost my health in general, including taking a 200 to 300mg magnesium supplement every day to help my brain and body relax, and for better sleep.
Unfortunately, there were a few tests – the vitamin B12 and B9 and some in the thyroid profile – that couldn’t be processed due to a lack of blood. I was a little surprised by this, as I thought I’d gone slightly over the fill lines in the tubes. But Dr Kenneally’s message also informed me I could get Thriva credit for my missing results.
Taking control of my health
All in all, it was really good to get peace of mind that my body seems to be doing what it’s supposed to in those areas it was tested on.
I’m still not sure what’s causing my lack of energy, but it’s good to know my test results were normal. My tiredness is probably more to do with my lifestyle – and the fact I’ve been caught up in a pandemic along with everyone else for the last 16 months.
If I carry on feeling tired, I’ll book an appointment with a doctor for a thorough check-up. But I’m definitely feeling more motivated to look after my health: I’ve started looking at the benefits of a Mediterranean diet and am exercising a little bit more every day.
When to see a doctor
If you’re concerned about any of your test results or they're not in the normal range, it’s best to see a doctor, so you can get advice and further tests and treatment if needed.
And if you have any symptoms you’re worried about, see a doctor as home blood tests aren't always suitable. DIY blood tests shouldn’t be used if you think you have a serious or emergency medical problem – see a doctor instead.
Also, see a doctor if the area where you pricked your finger becomes very red, swollen or painful.
If you’d like to give yourself a health check-up from the comfort of your own home, order a Thriva test today and use the code ‘HEALTHILY20’ for 20% off.
*In some cases, Healthily may benefit commercially from promoting third-party health products and/or services. Healthily is not liable for products and/or services provided by third parties.
Your health questions answered
How accurate are home blood test kits?Answered by: Dr Ann Nainan
Finger-prick blood tests can give accurate results for some tests, but their accuracy depends on many factors, including if you collect your blood sample correctly, if you’ve managed to collect enough blood in the tubes, and how quickly it’s processed by the laboratory, for example. Studies show that when a medical professional draws blood via your veins, the results tend to be more accurate, as people have difficulty when it comes to collecting their own blood samples via a finger prick. This is why it’s important that you follow all instructions when doing a home test to make sure you get a good blood sample. And if you're concerned about any of your results, speak to a doctor about them. Home blood tests aren’t always suitable, so rather see a doctor if you’re worried about any symptoms you have.
- Thriva is a blood testing service that allows you to “take health into your own hands” through personalised tests, insights, and informative articles
- DIY blood test kits offer many kinds of tests including tests to check for vitamin deficiencies, your cholesterol levels and your risk for heart disease and diabetes
- at-home blood tests are convenient because you can do it whenever is best for you and it usually takes about 48 hours to get your results
- home blood tests aren’t always the best option – see a doctor if you have symptoms you’re worried about
- DIY blood tests aren’t always accurate, particularly if you don’t collect a blood sample correctly