We’ve all had blood tests at some time or other. They’re usually ordered by a doctor to make sure that everything is working well in your body and that you’re not being attacked by a disease with less-than-obvious symptoms. While you should get a full blood workup done at least once a year, blood tests are also often done if you’re experiencing some problems which won’t go away, if you’re interested in your results and want to adjust your diet and lifestyle according to them, or if you want to make sure you’re not at any risk of developing some kind of disease. Many tests require fasting. However, not being doctors ourselves, it can be difficult to gauge what a blood test actually means. Here are some of the tests you might have done, and what they indicate:
Complete Blood Count (CBC)
This is a test that looks at your general health. It measures, among other things, your red blood cell count, your white blood cell count, your platelet count, your haemoglobin, and hematocrit. For women, the normal RBC is 3.90 – 5.03 mcL, while normal haemoglobin levels are between 12 – 15.5 g/dL. If your bloodwork is out of range, it could tell doctors whether you have infections, heart problems, cancer, bone marrow problems, iron deficiency, or nutrition issues.
A lipid panel will estimate your cholesterol levels and triglycerides. If you’re at risk of heart disease or have diabetes, you should get this done annually. Your total cholesterol should ideally be less than 200 mg/dL. If your results are abnormal, you should avoid red meat, dairy, and high-cholesterol products. Also, pass on that serving of french fries because it’s better to avoid fried food.
Comprehensive Metabolic Panel (CMP)
This test provides a whole host of results, including an indication of your glucose, protein, and calcium levels, your electrolyte and fluid balance, and your liver and kidney functioning. It basically allows the doctor to have a close look at your metabolism to gauge whether you’re at risk of a number of diseases (cancer, diabetes, or liver and kidney diseases). This test can indicate anything from cirrhosis to hepatitis if your levels are off the norm. However, they often require additional tests to check the results if your doctor finds anything is amiss in your blood work.
Thyroid tests or thyroid panels check the functioning of your thyroid. Women are more likely to have hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism. The TSH (Thyroid-stimulating hormone) and T4 tests are both done to check that your thyroid is functioning properly. Your hormone levels are examined and therefore the doctor can get an idea about your thyroid. If you have certain difficulties like fatigue, weight fluctuation, fragile hair and nails, appetite increase, a faster heartbeat and muscles feeling weaker, you should get this test done.
The FSH Test
The FSH (Follicle Stimulating Hormone) controls a woman’s menstrual cycle and egg production. The FSH test can indicate whether there are issues with the menstrual cycle, or whether there are problems related to infertility or puberty. You should take this test on the advice of your doctor if they feel it is necessary.
C-Reactive Protein Test
CRP, if at high levels, can show that there’s inflammation in the body. While occasional changes in CRP levels are normal, consistently abnormal levels can be a cause for concern. Tests can indicate whether you have inflammation problems, heart disease, cancer, arthritis, IBD, etc. You can control your CRP levels (somewhat) by trying to consume anti-inflammatory foods.
Sexually Transmitted Diseases Test
STDs can be diagnosed through blood work, although sometimes the results take time (especially for the HIV test). Any STD has to be proven through blood work, and you should take the test any time you suspect you might be at the risk of contracting an STD.
The world of blood tests can seem quite daunting to the uninitiated, and largely, unless you work in the medical profession, your contact with blood tests should be occasional at best. Always get your results seen by a doctor rather than assuming what they mean, even if you have an idea. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.