What You and Your Doctor Can Learn From Basic Blood Tests: Blood tests can help doctors detect health abnormalities, even if you're not experiencing any symptoms.
The most commonly ordered blood tests include a CBC (complete blood count), a lipid profile, a basic metabolic panel, and thyroid function tests.
Complete Blood Count (CBC)
The CBC is the single most common blood test, and it is often conducted as part of an annual visit to your primary care physician. The test can detect diseases and conditions such as anemia, infections, blood cancers, blood clotting problems, and immune system abnormalities. The specific components of a CBC involve a measurement of red blood cells, white blood cells, platelets, and hemoglobin.
Abnormal red blood cell levels may be associated with anemia, dehydration, and bleeding, among other disorders. The average life cycle of a red blood cell is 120 days, so things can change rapidly.
White blood cell abnormalities could signal infection, blood cancer, or a problem with immune system function.
Platelets, which are produced by bone marrow, play a key role in blood clotting. A high platelet count could be a sign of unusual bleeding; a low count may indicate a malfunction in the bone marrow.
Hemoglobin is an iron-containing protein in red blood cells. Abnormal hemoglobin levels may indicate anemia, sickle cell anemia, or blood disorders.
The lipid panel shows your cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
"In terms of general health, the lipid studies are very helpful in determining long-term risk of heart disease. An abnormal lipid level is also one of the first indications that something might be wrong in terms of heart health," says Elizabeth Jacobson, MD, assistant professor of clinical medicine at Weill Cornell Medicine.
A typical lipoprotein panel measures four components in your bloodstream:
* Total cholesterol, an overall indicator of coronary heart disease
* LDL ("bad") cholesterol, the main source of cholesterol buildup
* HDL ("good") cholesterol helps prevent LDL buildup
* Triglycerides, a type of fat linked with higher risks of stroke and heart attack.
Below are general target numbers for blood lipids. However, if you have any chronic health conditions, such as heart or vascular disease, chronic kidney disease, or diabetes, ask your doctor what target numbers you should aim for.
* Total cholesterol: less than 200 mg/dl is desirable
* LDL cholesterol: less than 100 mg/dl is desirable; less than 70 mg/dl is optimal
* HDL cholesterol: 40-59 mg/dl is desirable, but the higher, the better
* Triglycerides: Less than 150 mg/dl is desirable; less than 100 mg/dl is optimal
The plasma component in blood yields information about blood chemistry. A basic metabolic panel provides information about blood glucose, calcium, and electrolytes including sodium, potassium, and magnesium, as well as blood urea nitrogen (BUN) and creatinine for kidney function.
The fasting plasma glucose test is one of the most common tests used to check for diabetes. The test measures your blood glucose (sugar) level after you have fasted for at least eight hours. A range of 70-99 is normal; 100-125 is classified as prediabetes; and a reading of 126 or higher is considered diabetes.
Thyroid Function Tests
Most routine exams do not include testing for thyroid gland function, but if a physician suspects a problem, he or she might order tests that measure various hormone levels (TSH, T3, and T4, for example) that can reveal abnormalities.
It's estimated that one out of every eight women will have a thyroid disorder in her lifetime, and as many as 60 percent of women who have a thyroid condition are unaware of it, according to the American Thyroid Association. The most common thyroid disorders are hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid) and hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid).
Abnormal Test Results
For many conditions, including diabetes and heart disease, blood testing often provides the first indication that a health condition is present. Usually, abnormal test results are confirmed by repeat testing before any treatment is initiated.
WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW
Blood tests can help your doctor:
* Evaluate how well your organs, including your heart, thyroid gland, liver, and kidneys, are functioning
* Diagnose diseases and conditions such as diabetes and anemia
* Identify risk factors for heart disease, including high LDL cholesterol
Caption: Blood tests can alert your doctor to the presence of a variety of health issues.
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|Publication:||Women's Health Advisor|
|Date:||Jul 1, 2018|
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