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'Doing a DIY blood test gave me the reassurance about my health I needed'

In partnership with Thriva.

2021-11-17

Words: Brian Leonard; Images: Thriva

Get 20% off your Thriva men's health blood test kit using code ATTITUDE20.

I’ll hold my hands up: I have never been the poster boy for a particularly healthy and balanced lifestyle.

With a naturally fast metabolism that made it seemingly impossible to put on excess weight during adolescence, I spent most of my twenties snacking with gleeful abandon and swapping hours in the gym for a double G&T (or three) without ever worrying too much about my general health or fitness, save the occasional jog or swim.

Late nights working in the week, even later nights partying on the weekend and a sedentary, desk-bound job meant that diet, exercise and thoughts about long-term health became chores that were all too easily pushed down an already-bursting to-do list.

Little did I know that all it would take would be a global pandemic and my fast-approaching thirties to burst that bubble in pretty spectacular fashion.

Like many others, working from home torched what remained of my already-lax approach to health and wellness: with exercise limited to daily steps to the fridge, and diet limited to whatever could be found at any one time in said fridge, it didn’t take long for bad habits to form - and this time, to my horror, my mirror confirmed that my genetic get-out-of-jail-free card had finally expired.

Lethargy, poor sleep, difficulty concentrating and pre-March 2020 clothing straining at the waist? I officially had the full gamut of poor pandemic KPIs, and the visual evidence that I’d been letting my health slide finally focused my mind firmly on what should have been the priority all along – what was happening inside. A family health incident also confirmed that, fast-metabolism or not, my lifestyle choices would not forever be consequence-free, so out went the fags, in came the vape, and with it a renewed commitment to taking control of my body.

Knowing where to start my health kick was the hardest part; which is where Thriva, a subscription service offering fast and easy home blood tests, GP advice and personalised health plans, came in.

Thriva's home blood test kits allow to to quickly and easily take control of your health

The concept is simple: you order a personalised package sent through the mail, take a blood sample at home and send it off before receiving your lab-approved results and GP recommendations. With a tiered system offering checks including liver function, cholesterol, Vitamin D, Iron and testosterone levels, I hoped Thriva would serve as the long-overdue health MOT that would help me focus my newfound motivation and answer the question as to whether my general languor could be caused by a nutrient or hormone deficiency.

Importantly, Thriva’s subscription-based approach would allow me not only an immediate insight into the state of my body, but to see how I’d improved in another three or six months.

Before choosing my package, I had to complete a surprisingly in-depth questionnaire on the state of my health and fitness, the wince-inducing answers to which only confirmed the extent of my increasingly stationary lifestyle.

Thriva allows you to cherry-pick tests to suit you (and save money on any you might think unnecessary), but given I was going in blind after years of neglecting my health, I opted for the full men’s health blood test, which includes a HbA1c (diabetes risk) test - something I thought sensible given a family history of the condition.

Of course, if you’re concerned about your health or experiencing symptoms, a trip to the GP is the recommended in all circumstances.

All in all, the total cost of £65 (down to just £52 with 20% off using code ATTITUDE20) seemed like good value for money given the breadth of the tests included in the men's health blood test kit, which arrived within just a couple of days in a pleasingly efficient package small enough to fit through the letterbox (if only all online home deliveries were so easy).

Thriva sends everything you need in one simple packed that fits through the letterbox

The process of taking a blood sample at home was will be recognisable to any gay or bisexual man who’s performed an at-home HIV test, with a quick and simple finger-prick followed by filling the vials with a small sample of blood (I had two separate vials to cover the different tests I’d ordered).

After following the simple instructions, all I had to do was label the vials, pack them back into the ‘Send’ compartment of the Thriva box, place into a secure pre-paid envelope and send the same day to await my results. Gulp.

The wait was even shorter than expected: while Thriva aims to deliver results with 48 hours, it was less than 36 before my phone pinged with a message telling me my readings and advice were ready. Thriva’s bespoke app syncs up your results directly to your phone, so no nervous waiting here; but either way, it was crunch time for my body.

The clear and concise round-up made for surprisingly pleasant reading as my Thriva GP declared the results of all tests within normal limits, and offered some reassuring tips for increasing my physical activity throughout the day.

Of course, what I was really interested in was the nitty-gritty of my inner workings which I’d never previously been able to see, but thankfully my testosterone, cholesterol and liver function were all within the normal parameters.

Thriva delivers results within 48 hours straight to your phone app and online account

My Hs-CRP levels - which indicate low levels of inflammation in your body, a risk factor for heart disease - were <1 mg/L, which was also good news.

Thankfully, given that pesky family history of diabetes, my HbA1c (Diabetes) result measuring my average blood glucose level of the last three months also came back optimal.

The only part of my results that offered slight pause for thought – and a possible indicator as to why I’d felt slightly more tired and run-down than usual – was my Vitamin D level, which at 50 nmol/L was deemed ‘sufficient’, but perched firmly on the lower borderline.

Vitamin D is an essential fat-soluble vitamin needed for healthy bones, muscles, and a strong immune system. The human body generates it naturally when exposed to sunlight, and given the combination of British weather, nights drawing in and being glued to a desk indoors during daylight hours, it perhaps wasn’t altogether surprising I was on the low end of the acceptable level.

I hopped straight onto Thriva’s in-house Health Hub to find out more, and shortly afterward bagged myself some of their Vitamin D supplements to get my levels back in sync. With Thriva allowing you to pick what you want from your next package, as well as the timing, it’s safe to say I’ll be keeping the Vitamin D test on there to keep track of the results.

My Thriva men’s health blood kit had certainly delivered to goods when it came to finding out just what was going on inside my body, but just as important was the psychological effect of finally taking control of my own health.

Having the facts laid out plainly before me - with the added incentive of being able to monitor my progress in the future - immediately gave me the proverbial kick up the backside I needed to make changes when it came to my pandemic-hit exercise and diet regimes.

I'm already looking forward to my six-month check-up to see how I'm getting on. 

Get your Thriva men's health blood test kit here with 20% off using code ATTITUDE20.