It’s In Your Blood: Understanding Your Bloodwork and the Results
September 2021 Issue - Pink Prescriptions
by Hilton Head Regional Healthcare
Blood is like the “UPS driver” of our bodies. It courses through our veins leaving “packages” filled with life-sustaining items, such as oxygen, nutrients, carbon dioxide, hormones and much more, at every organ. Blood is the delivery system of life, and that’s why blood tests are exactly what your doctor orders. This delivery system has tracking and can tell your physician everything it is delivering and how much. This information often provides a map of what’s good, what’s bad, what needs working on and where to explore next. With this important information being the key to your treasured health, we thought you would be interested in knowing more about blood tests and what they can tell you about the status of your health. As such, we asked the experts at Hilton Head Regional Healthcare to give us the details:
What is routine blood testing and how often should I get it?
A routine blood test is an important way you and your physician can keep track of your overall health and well-being. A typical routine blood test, called the Complete Blood Count, or CBC, counts red and white blood cells and measures hemoglobin levels. This test requires getting blood taken at your doctor’s office or at a lab. Usually, a phlebotomist, nurse, or doctor will draw your blood from a vein in your arm as you sit in a chair with your feet on the ground. Often, you’re done in less than five minutes.
Most physicians recommend routine blood work at least once a year, around the same time as your yearly physical.
Why should I get it?
The results of a CBC can provide insight into important factors related to organ function, diet, metabolism, illnesses and other certain diseases. There are several major reasons you may want to see your doctor and get blood tests more often:
• You’re experiencing unusual, persistent symptoms: Fatigue, abnormal weight gain/loss, or new pains in your body.
• You want to optimize your health. Knowing levels of various blood components, such as HDL and LDL cholesterols, can allow you to tweak your diet and fitness plan to minimize unhealthy habits. This can also tell you how to maximize the nutrients you put in your body.
• You want to reduce your risk of disease or complications. Blood tests can catch the warning signs early for almost any disease. Many heart, lung and kidney conditions can be diagnosed using blood tests.
What are the typical blood tests your doctor may request?
> Complete Blood Count (CBC)
This routine blood test measures the cells in the body through the blood. They test the blood for white blood cells, red blood cells, hemoglobin, hematocrit and platelets. CBC tests can detect if you have anemia, nutritional deficiencies, an infection, cancer and bone marrow problems.
Here is the typical range of results:
> Basic Metabolic Panel (BMP)
A basic metabolic panel checks for levels of certain compounds in the blood, such as:
• carbon dioxide
• blood urea nitrogen (BUN)
This test requires fasting for at least 8 hours before your blood is drawn. Normal results for a basic metabolic panel are as follows, however, normal ranges will vary slightly for adults over the age of 60.
Abnormal results may indicate kidney disease, diabetes or hormone imbalances. Your doctor will perform follow-up tests to diagnose any of these conditions.
> Complete Metabolic Panel (CMP)
A complete metabolic panel includes all the measurements of a BMP, as well as additional proteins and substances related to liver function:
• alkaline phosphatase (ALP)
• total protein
• alanine aminotransferase (ALT)
• aspartate aminotransferase (AST)
The same conclusions can be drawn from a CMP as from a BMP for the same substances that a BMP covers. Other abnormal levels can also indicate underlying conditions, such as:
> Lipid Panel
This test checks levels of two types of cholesterol:
• HDL—High-density lipoprotein, or “good” cholesterol
• LDL—Low-density lipoprotein, or “bad” cholesterol
HDL is “good” because it removes harmful substances from your blood and helps the liver break them down into waste. LDL is “bad” because it can cause plaque to develop in your arteries, increasing your risk of heart disease. This test also requires fasting for at least 8 hours prior to the test.
Here are the ranges for each type, and normal levels can also vary by age:
How would I go about scheduling a routine blood test and what are the costs?
Your doctor will typically order routine blood tests during a physical, checkup, or an appointment intended for a specific condition. Blood testing is usually partially or fully covered by insurance. Ordering tests through your medical provider ensures that you’re not paying too much. Your doctor can also advise you on how to choose testing facilities that are reliable, well-managed, or convenient for you.
This article was brought to you by Hilton Head Regional Healthcare Physician Network and is not intended to diagnose or replace the medical care of your physician. It is recommended to seek medical advice by establishing a medical care with a physician. For more information or to find a physician, please see www.hiltonheadregionalphysiciannetwork.com or call 888-549-0770.