Are you constantly worn out, but unable to put your finger on why? Hugh Wolton, Senior Partnerships Manager at Healthily, took a DIY blood test to understand what might be causing his tiredness.
I caught COVID-19 in December 2021 and was ill for about 2 weeks. Since then, I’ve had less energy than normal – in fact, my partner was worried that I might be developing long COVID. She encouraged me to get a blood test. But as the NHS is under pressure right now, I chose to order a DIY blood test instead of going to see my doctor.
I’d done something similar in January 2019, and the results showed that my levels of vitamin D were low. While this is quite common during the colder, darker winter months due to a lack of direct sunlight, I was curious to see if my levels had improved 3 years later – especially as I’d been taking vitamin D supplements on and off.
Why choose a Numan blood test?
While there are plenty of options online, I chose Numan – a healthcare subscription service focusing on men’s health – and its Fear Nothing Blood Test Plus.
A major benefit is that it screens for a huge 21 biomarkers (or 17 if you choose the Standard test, rather than the Plus). These are markers in the blood that can be measured for signs of health conditions.
Numan also promises to give you a refund for the cost of your test if all your results are normal.
The 17 biomarkers tested on the Standard test are:
- creatinine – this can show how well your kidneys are working by measuring how much creatinine (a waste product) is in your blood
- urea – high levels can suggest kidney damage or disease
- eGFR – another marker that measures how well your kidneys are working
- free T4 (thyroxine) – a test for thyroid function; low or high levels may mean your thyroid is underactive or overactive
- thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) – another test to check if your thyroid is working in the way it should
- total bilirubin – high levels can indicate liver damage or disease
- GGT – high levels can suggest liver damage or disease
- ALP – high levels may suggest there’s a problem with your liver or bones
- ALT – tests to see if you have injured liver cells
- albumin – tests your risk of liver disease by checking how much albumin (a type of protein) your liver makes
- cholesterol – a fatty substance in your blood that is used to help work out your risk for heart problems or a stroke
- HDL – tests your levels of ‘good’ cholesterol
- LDL – measures your levels of ‘bad’ cholesterol, and can also be used to work out your risk of developing heart disease
- triglycerides – similar to cholesterol, this is another blood ‘fat’ marker and can be used to help measure your risk of heart disease
- sodium – a mineral called an ‘electrolyte’, which, if found to be low or high, could suggest water balance problems such as dehydration, or can be a side effect of a medication
- vitamin D – checks if you have a vitamin D deficiency
- total testosterone – can highlight problems with sex drive, muscle mass and fertility
The 4 extra biomarkers included in the Plus test are:
- vitamin B12 – low levels can lead to vitamin B12 deficiency anaemia
- ferritin – measures how much iron is stored in your body and whether you’re at risk of an iron deficiency anaemia
- folate – tests if you have a folate (vitamin B9) deficiency, which can lead to folate deficiency anaemia
- HbA1c – looks at your blood sugar levels over the past 3 months to work out your risk of prediabetes and diabetes
For £128 (or £98 if you order the Standard blood test), I could find out more about why I’ve been so lacking in energy, and get personalised feedback with a clinician based on my results.
Once ordered, the blood test arrived within 2 days, in discreet packaging and with all the tools I needed, including:
- 6 lancets (in case I didn’t get enough blood the first few times)
- a plaster
- a cleansing wipe
- an alcohol wipe
- 2 collection tubes
I read the instructions in full before I did anything else, which told me I needed to take the test in the morning after fasting for 8 hours.
How to take the blood test
I woke up the next day, drank 2 glasses of water, did some light stretching and washed my hands under warm water for 2 minutes – all of which Numan advises to improve blood flow.
After cleaning my hand with the alcohol wipe, I pricked my finger and the blood started coming out quite quickly – I had to adjust my aim a few times to make sure each drop was being collected in the tube.
As the blood flow slowed down a little, I followed Numan’s instructions to gently ‘milk’ my finger, rather than squeeze it too hard.
There were 2 separate tubes that needed different volumes of blood. Once these were filled to the right level, I fastened the lids, turned them up and down slowly, and made sure they were correctly labelled.
The whole test took no more than 5 minutes and was really easy. Then all that was left to do was post the tubes to Numan in the pre-paid envelope and wait patiently.
What did the results show?
After 3 days of suspense, the results of my blood test arrived in my inbox. I was pleasantly surprised about how much detail and insight I was given, and relieved to see that the feedback was generally positive.
I didn’t qualify for Numan’s ‘free if we don’t find anything’ refund though, because my vitamin D levels were found to be below the normal range. I’ll definitely be buying a stronger vitamin D supplement for the remaining winter months, and maybe take this opportunity to book a sunny holiday!
This result was really surprising because my diet is on the healthy end of the spectrum – I’m a bit of a self-confessed fitness freak and I don’t smoke. But maybe I could cut back on the chocolate, and I could certainly add more fish containing omega-3 fatty acids into my diet, to make sure I get more ‘good’ fats.
What I learnt
While my HDL and vitamin D levels are low, I feel more in control of my health knowing that this might be what’s causing my tiredness. I also feel motivated by the idea that making small changes to my lifestyle could help me boost my future health.
I’ll continue to exercise regularly – I’ve set a target to run 1,000 miles in 2022. I’m also adding salmon into my weekly meals, and I’ve bought a stronger vitamin D supplement to take each day.
You can check back in with me in 6 months when I test again, to see if these changes have improved my energy levels.
When to see a doctor
If you’re worried about any of your test results, or if some of them aren’t in the healthy range, see a doctor. They can give you specific advice and further tests and treatment, if this is what you need.
You should also see a doctor if the area where you pricked your finger becomes very red, swollen or painful.
While DIY blood tests can be useful, they shouldn’t be used if you’re worried about any symptoms, or have a serious health problem or a medical emergency. In this case, see a doctor instead.
If you’d like to give yourself a health check-up, order a Numan test today.
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.
Before taking the blood test Make sure you always read the instructions carefully before taking an at-home blood test.