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Article Type: Blog

What Your Lab Tests Tell You

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When you visit your doctor for a routine physical, often your doctor will require blood tests. Routine blood screenings, particularly if you’re between 29 and 49 years old, can help your doctor detect many life-changing or life-threatening diseases early such as diabetes, kidney disease, heart disease and even some cancers. 

How Routine Lab Tests Can Protect Your Health

Blood testing is an invaluable screening tool that can detect problems in your body before symptoms ever appear. The results help your doctor evaluate your overall health, detect existing health problems and even determine your risk for future health issues. 

Sometimes the results of your blood workup will indicate potential risk for future health conditions. In that case, your doctor can work with you to create a wellness plan that helps you take preventive measures to reduce your risk. If your results show that you need to make lifestyle changes to reduce your risk of heart disease, for example, your primary care provider may suggest you ramp up your cardiovascular fitness routine, lose weight, make dietary changes or stop smoking.

Other indicators from your screening can help your physician definitively diagnose an existing condition that needs immediate medical treatment. Should your blood glucose screening show you have diabetes for example, your doctor may prescribe medication right away or ask you to see a specialist for further screening. 

Screening Recommendations

Based on your unique needs and your doctor’s preferences, different screenings may be recommended during your annual wellness exam. While this list of screening recommendations is not all-inclusive, it outlines the most common blood tests:

Lipoprotein Panel

Also called a lipid panel, this test is used to monitor your good and bad cholesterol. These results, combined with your triglycerides, can help determine your risk for coronary heart disease. 

Fasting Glucose, Hemoglobin A1c and 2-Hour Glucose Tolerance Tests

All of these tests measure the level of glucose in your blood to help your doctor determine if you have or are at future risk for diabetes — they just screen for the condition in slightly different ways.

It’s also common, if you get an abnormal result, for your doctor to recommend a second screening on another day to ensure your blood sugar is still high.  

Complete Blood Count (CBC) 

The most common routine blood test is the CBC. It measures:

  • Red blood cells— abnormal levels can indicate dehydration, internal bleeding, anemia and other disorders 
  • White blood cells— abnormal levels can indicate an infection, immune disorder or even blood cancer
  • Hematocrit— abnormal levels can indicate dehydration, anemia and blood or bone marrow problem
  • Hemoglobin— abnormal levels can be a sign of a blood disorder
  • Platelets— abnormal levels can indicate a clotting issue 

Basic Metabolic Panel

A basic metabolic panel measures thyroid, kidney and heart function. It can also detect diabetes. 

Doctor Knows Best

Which screenings you need and how often you need them can vary widely by individual. Factors such as your age, gender, physical condition and family history must all be considered. Working with your primary care provider to determine which screenings are right for you is always best. 

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