There are many reasons for us to take full responsibility for our health. One, no one knows our bodies the way we do. Two, food additives and prescriptions can pose unknown dangers. Then there is the proactive route of preventive health care, which means catching medical issues before they become serious. It’s both cost-effective and beneficial to check up on our health before it’s too late.
Let’s face it, taking control of our health can help us avoid unnecessary risks.
In this guide, we will discuss what preventive care is, how regular blood tests can be beneficial, and what the results mean.
Disclaimer: I am not a physician. I am providing content for information purposes based on my personal experience and research and my clients’ experience. Always seek advice from your practitioner regarding medical conditions or treatment options, and never delay due diligence in taking care of your body.
What is a Routine Blood Test?
A routine blood test checks for common markers of health and disease to help you make informed decisions about your lifestyle, diet, and medical treatments. It involves a sample of blood taken from your arm that gets examined for levels of cholesterol, glucose, electrolytes, proteins, enzymes, and other components.
What is the Purpose of a Routine Blood Panel?
Preventive health care is essential to staying healthy and being proactive about your health and wellness. Regular visits to the doctor for preventive screenings can help you detect potential health issues before they become more serious.
You and your doctor can use your results to monitor your general health, identify any underlying medical conditions, and ensure you receive the appropriate treatment. Knowing your results can also help you make the right decisions about diet, exercise, and other lifestyle changes that can positively impact your health.
Let’s take a closer look at how routine bloodwork can be used for preventive care.
Preventive Health Care
Taking a proactive approach to your health can reduce your risk of developing chronic illnesses and the onset of other serious health issues. For example, if your glucose result shows that you are pre-diabetic, you can make lifestyle changes to help reduce your risk of developing diabetes. You can change your diet, exercise more, and focus on reaching a healthy weight.
Not only do you have the opportunity to create a healthier lifestyle that can benefit you in the long term, but you can achieve normal glucose levels and prevent or reduce complications related to diabetes, such as nerve damage, heart disease, and kidney failure.
To Diagnose a Medical Condition
A routine blood test can give your doctor valuable insight into your body’s organs and systems. It can help detect any medical issues you may be experiencing, such as anemia, thyroid disorders, and infections.
You know those feelings of constant fatigue that never go away no matter how much caffeine you consume? Your doctor can use your test results to diagnose such issues and provide appropriate treatment.
What about uncontrolled weight gain? Maybe your thyroid levels are off, which can be determined through your bloodwork. It can also help diagnose more serious medical conditions like heart disease and cancer.
To Maintain A Medical Condition
For those with a diagnosed condition, preventive care through routine blood tests can help monitor the course of treatment and evaluate any changes in their condition. It is crucial if you are receiving treatment for a chronic illness, such as diabetes or heart disease, as they require ongoing monitoring and management.
Your provider can use your results to check for any changes in your condition and adjust your treatment plan as needed.
To Check the Status of Medical Treatment
Preventive health care through routine blood tests can also help your doctor check the status of your medical treatment. Think about surgery or chemotherapy, for instance. Determining how well the treatment works is imperative to reaching your short and long-term health goals. The goal is always to help you achieve a healthy lifestyle and maintain your well-being.
The Most Important Blood Tests To Take Control of Your Preventive Health Care
I have been getting my routine bloodwork done for many years, and not once has my doctor explained what each one means and how it can impact my health. In fact, when they did have to explain something because the result was abnormal, it wasn’t clear.
Once, my white blood cell count was high, and all she asked was…”are you an athlete? Ok, that is a normal result because athletes have a slightly higher white blood cell count due to working out so much.”
But she never explained why this was important or what it meant in terms of preventive care.
How can I prevent this? Can it cause other problems?
Let’s look at each test and its importance for preventive care. While this list is not exhaustive, it will give you a decent idea of what you are looking at when you get your results and when you need to ask questions.
Complete Blood Count (CBC)
A CBC is a standard test that measures several components and features of your blood. It looks at your red and white blood cells and platelets. It evaluates your overall health and detects disorders like anemia, infection, and leukemia.
Let’s look at everything included in the CBC test.
Red Blood Cell (RBC) Count
The RBC measures the number of red blood cells you have. It is indicative of how much oxygen your cells are getting.
Hematocrit (Hct) Test
The Hct measures how much space red blood cells occupy in your blood. The test detects anemia. Severe abnormalities can indicate leukemia or lymphoma.
White Blood Cell (WBC) Count
The WBC measures the number of white blood cells you have. White blood cells aid your body in fighting off infections and diseases. If you work out a lot as I do, it may show a high result because your body works extra hard to rebuild immunity and recover from lifting.
Differential White Blood Cell Count
The differential white blood cell count helps identify which types of white blood cells are present in your body. It helps identify abnormal white blood cells.
Hemoglobin (Hgb) Test
The Hgb test measures the amount of hemoglobin in your red blood cells. It works alongside the Hct test to detect anemia.
The platelet count measures platelets in your blood. Platelets help your body form clots and stop bleeding. Low platelets can be an indicator of a bleeding disorder.
Mean Corpuscular Hemoglobin (MCH) Test
The MCH test measures the average amount of hemoglobin in a single red blood cell. It evaluates anemia and other types of blood disorders.
Red Cell Distribution Width (RDW or RCDW) Test
The RDW or RCDW test measures the variation in size and volume of red blood cells. It can diagnose various blood disorders such as anemia, sickle cell anemia, and HIV.
Mean Corpuscular Volume (MCV) Test
The MCV test measures the average volume of red blood cells. It can diagnose several blood disorders and liver diseases.
Mean Platelet Volume (MPV) Test
The MPV test measures the average volume of platelets. Platelets help your blood form clots to stop bleeding when you’re injured.
Comprehensive Metabolic Panel (CMP)
This test looks at your electrolyte levels and other information about your organs, like your kidneys, liver, and pancreas. They detect diseases and conditions such as diabetes, kidney disease, and liver disease.
Let’s look at all the tests included in the CMP.
Alanine Aminotransferase (ALT) Test
The ALT test measures the amount of alanine aminotransferase, an enzyme found in your liver. It detects liver diseases such as cancer, hepatitis, cirrhosis, and infections.
Total Protein Test
The total protein test measures the amount of protein in your blood. It evaluates how well the cells in the liver and kidney function.
The albumin test determines the amount of albumin, a protein your liver produces. It can indicate liver and kidney malfunction or dehydration.
Aspartate Aminotransferase Test (AST)
The AST test measures the amount of aspartate aminotransferase, an enzyme found in your liver. It measures liver damage.
Alkaline Phosphatase Test (ALP)
The ALP test measures the amount of alkaline phosphatase, an enzyme found in your liver and bones. It detects liver and bone diseases.
The bilirubin test measures the amount of bilirubin, a waste product your liver produces. Physicians use this test to diagnose newborn jaundice.
The calcium test measures the amount of calcium in your blood. It evaluates bone health and detects a variety of diseases.
Blood Urea Nitrogen (BUN) Test
The BUN test measures the amount of urea nitrogen, a waste product produced by your liver. It detects kidney disease and other related conditions.
The creatinine test looks at the amount of creatinine, a waste product produced by your muscles. It measures kidney function.
Fasting Blood Sugar Test
The fasting blood sugar test measures the amount of glucose in your blood. It is used to detect diabetes and other related conditions.
Chloride, Sodium, Phosphorus, and Potassium Tests
These tests measure how much chloride, sodium, phosphorus, and potassium are in the blood. They evaluate electrolyte and acid-base balance.
Basic Metabolic Panel (BMP)
The Basic Metabolic Panel is another version of the CMP. It still looks at your electrolyte levels and other information about your organs like your kidneys, liver, and pancreas. It detects diabetes, kidney disease, and liver disease. You’ll notice the BMP test looks at sodium, potassium, creatinine, calcium, BUN, glucose, and chloride levels.
It also tests for carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide helps with acid/base and magnesium balance.
The thyroid panel examines your T4, T3, and thyroid-stimulating hormone levels. These hormones regulate metabolism and energy production in the body and are used to detect thyroid disorders.
The SHBG test measures the amount of sex hormone-binding globulin in your blood. It measures testosterone levels and other hormones related to fertility.
The Lipid Panel looks at cholesterol, triglycerides, and other fats in your blood. It detects high cholesterol levels or the presence of other fat-related disorders, such as heart disease and the probability of stroke.
Your lipid panel looks at these values.
The triglycerides test measures the number of triglycerides. Our bodies use triglycerides for energy. But high levels could indicate clogged arteries.
HDL Cholesterol Test
The HDL cholesterol test measures the amount of high-density lipoprotein (good cholesterol) in your blood.
LDL Cholesterol Test
The LDL cholesterol test measures the amount of low-density lipoprotein (bad cholesterol) in your blood.
Total Cholesterol to HDL Ratio Test
The total cholesterol to HDL ratio test measures the amount of total cholesterol relative to the amount of high-density lipoprotein.
The lipid profile test identifies high cholesterol levels and other fat-related conditions such as heart disease or stroke.
The Coagulation Panel tests your clotting time and platelet count. It detects blood clotting disorders and deficiencies in vitamin K, which can affect your clotting time and cause excessive bleeding.
C-Reactive Protein Test
This test measures the level of C-reactive protein in your blood. It exposes inflammation levels that indicate infection, autoimmune disorders, and cancer.
DHEA-Sulfate Serum Test
DHEA test measures the level of DHEA-Sulfate in your blood. Imbalances in DHEA can indicate adrenal disorders, as well as fertility issues.
Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI) Tests
These blood tests will look for any STIs in your system. They detect and treat infections such as syphilis, hepatitis, herpes, and HIV. Keep in mind that all STDs are not detectable by blood tests. Urine testing or swabs of the mouth and genitals work for other STIs.
Cardiac biomarkers tests look for proteins that may indicate a heart attack or other cardiac issues. They are used to detect and treat problems such as arrhythmias, heart failure, and different types of heart disease.
Enzyme markers tests look for proteins that may indicate certain types of cancer, such as breast and colorectal cancer.
Bone Marrow Tests
Bone marrow tests look at the cells in your bone marrow to detect diseases such as leukemia and lymphoma.
There Are So Many!
I know this is a lot to take in. It was for me, and it still is. But don’t let it overwhelm you. My goal is to give you a general guideline on the available lab tests. Once you receive your results, you can decide what to do next or consult your doctor for medical advice.
If you need help executing an action plan to become healthier, I can help. Take my free health assessment here to get started. I’ll create a comprehensive meal and workout plan for your lifestyle.
How Often Should You Get a Routine Lab Panel?
You should get a routine lab panel done yearly to stay on top of your health. It will give you an idea of where your numbers stand and allow you to make any adjustments or lifestyle changes to prevent more severe illnesses or diseases.
What you don’t know can hurt you.
Where Can I Get a Preventive Care Check-up?
For many, the traditional way of getting a preventive care check-up is to visit your primary care physician. However, you can also find many walk-in clinics that offer comprehensive health check-ups. Additionally, many blood test centers have the necessary equipment and personnel to perform the tests you need.
Not to mention, many don’t have health insurance due to job and income loss. But there are still ways to get preventive care check-ups. Many clinics offer sliding-scale fees based on your income level and payment plans for those who need them. Also, many free clinics throughout the country offer basic preventive health services to people in need.
You can even pay for tests as needed as long as you know what tests to get. Do your research, compare prices and services, and talk with a health professional to ensure you get the proper test.
Never think that you don’t have options.
Home Testing Kits
Home testing kits are available that allow you to test for a variety of conditions in the privacy of your own home. These kits typically involve a few drops of blood or saliva. You’ll receive a notification online when your results are available. Lab tests may be more accurate than home testing kits, but they can be a significant first step in understanding your overall health.
Direct Access Testing (DAT)
Direct access testing is another way to get the lab tests you need without having to go through a health care provider. You can purchase direct-access labs online. Just go to the corresponding lab for testing and wait for the results. You’ll be notified via email when your results are in.
The great thing about DAT is that you don’t need a doctor’s order or insurance to get them. This is the route I usually take. Direct access tests are generally less expensive than lab tests and can help you stay on top of your health. I like that they group different lab packages together so you don’t have to pick each and every test you want. For example, I don’t just choose the testosterone test. I get to choose a full male wellness package.
Point of Care Testing
Point of care testing, or POCT, is a lab test that can be done quickly and inexpensively at the site where the patient is being seen (appointment or emergency room visit). POCT tests can diagnose diseases, infections, and other health conditions quickly and accurately. These tests are available in many clinics and hospitals and can help provide a more accurate diagnosis than traditional lab tests. A doctor usually orders them.
Private laboratories such as LabCorp offer a wide range of tests that can provide accurate and quick results. These labs may not accept your particular insurance, so asking about their payment policies is essential before going in for your tests. Private labs may be more expensive than traditional lab tests and DAT, but they are often faster and offer more extensive testing.
LabCorp participates in DAT as well. According to my clients, their prices tend to be higher.
What to Expect During the Blood Work Procedure
The procedure will likely involve drawing blood when you go in for a lab test. The technician will first swab your skin with an alcohol pad to disinfect the area and then use a needle to draw a few vials of blood. This process should take at most 10 minutes. Afterward, you’ll receive a bandage to cover the puncture mark. Expect your lab test results to take 1-2 weeks to return.
Do You Need To Fast Before The Blood Test?
Some blood tests may instruct you to fast for eight hours before the test. It includes abstaining from food, beverages (except water), and medications. Fasting helps to ensure accurate test results, so following the instructions is essential when preparing for your blood work. As a rule of thumb, I always fast for 12 hours because I usually have multiple tests done simultaneously.
Understanding What the Results Mean
When you get your results, you see a range of numbers that can be confusing. It is important to understand what each number means and how it affects your overall health. Most lab tests will include a reference range. This is the range of numbers considered normal. If your results are outside this range, it could indicate an infection or other health condition. If you are unsure, it’s best to consult your doctor or functional nutritionist for a thorough explanation of the results.
What Your Doctor Won’t Tell You
There are some things your doctor may not tell you because they simply don’t know you the way you do. Don’t take it personally. Your doctor sees you once a year and only knows what you tell them and what your lab results show them.
As long as you take full responsibility for your health, do research, and stay in tune with your body, you should get accurate results and make intelligent decisions about your health and wellness. Let’s look at some things your doctor may not tell you.
First and Foremost: You May Not Hear Back From Them
If you’ve ever ordered a lab test and received your results but never heard back from the doctor, don’t worry. It’s common for doctors to order tests and then not follow up with the patient. That’s why staying on top of your health and understanding the results is important. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Reach out to your specialist if you have concerns, regardless of whether they respond.
Now we can get into what your doctor won’t tell you.
“Normal” is Subjective Depending On The Person
I’d like to remind you again that no one knows your body the way that you do. With that said, if you get “abnormal” results and know what’s normal for yourself, don’t panic. For instance, the normal blood pressure range is 120/80. But it’s not uncommon for some people to have a reading that is slightly higher or lower than this range, and it’s perfectly normal for them, and it has always been.
Negative Equals Good
Finally, keep in mind that a negative result often means good news. Negative means “No abnormal findings.” So if you get a negative result, be thankful and continue to monitor your health.
Positive Equals Possible Problem
On the other hand, it means your result is outside of the normal range, which could indicate a health condition. Contact your practitioner to discuss further treatment options if you get a positive result.
False positives can occur as well. It means the test results indicate a condition or illness is present when there is no real issue. False positives can happen for a variety of reasons. If this happens to you, doing additional tests or getting a second opinion from another specialist is best.
False negatives are also possible. They occur when the test results indicate no issue or illness present, but a condition exists. Again, if this happens to you, it’s important to do additional tests or get a second opinion from another specialist, especially if you have symptoms. Dig deeper until you find the root cause of the issue.
Abnormal Results Does Not Mean You Are Sick
It’s important to remember that abnormal results do not always mean you are sick. It could mean your body is out of balance or needs more support. Ongoing imbalances are what cause illnesses. This is where functional nutrition comes into play, as it looks at the root cause of the imbalance and offers personalized solutions for optimal health.
Second Opinions May Not Show Same Results
Get a second opinion should you ever have abnormal results. Remember that the same lab tests could show different results because your body can change. So don’t be surprised if the results are different. Again, ensure you understand the root cause of any abnormal findings and take the appropriate steps to address them.
Strategic Management of Samples
If you are doing lab tests for general wellness, strategically managing your samples is a good idea. This means collecting them at the same time to compare them. For instance, test your blood glucose in the morning for at least three days. It will give you the best insight into your overall health and allow you to manage better any issues that arise. It can tell you which foods spike your insulin.
Do the same if you are getting a second opinion. If the first blood test was taken in the morning, aim to do the same with the second one.
How Does an Allergy Test Impact Your Overall Health?
An allergy test can help you understand what your body is allergic to and how it affects your overall health. Allergies can cause many symptoms, including sneezing, congestion, coughing, and breathing difficulties. These constant symptoms will leave you tired and frustrated. But what if the culprit causing them was peanut butter? I know it would be good news for some and devastating news for those who love peanut butter.
I know. I’ve been there.
Wrapping Up Preventive Care: The Ultimate Guide to Mastering the Meaning of Your Routine Bloodwork Values
Preventive care is vital to maintaining your health. Routine bloodwork can help you understand your body better. Knowing what each value means and how it affects your overall health can help you make the best decisions for your health. In many cases, making the right dietary and lifestyle choices can help you prevent or manage any existing health issues.
Having a support system is vital when trying to create a healthy lifestyle. Find someone to help you stay motivated and on track with your goals. As a mental performance coach, I can help you stay focused and accountable on your journey to success.
Contact me today to get started. Take my free health assessment here to get started. I’ll be in touch with you shortly after.
Don’t play with your body. You only get one.
Peace and Blessings
Frequently Asked Questions
Below are frequent inquiries about using routine labs as preventive care.
Does cancer show up in routine bloodwork?
Not necessarily. While some cancers can be detected through routine blood tests, this is not always true. Depending on the type of cancer, additional tests might be required.
What would show up in a blood test?
Blood tests detect abnormalities such as anemia, infections, inflammation, and electrolyte and hormone imbalances. It can also indicate if your liver or kidneys are functioning correctly.
Is it preventive care or preventative care?
Either spelling is acceptable. The use of ‘preventive’ versus ‘preventative’ has been used interchangeably for many years, but ‘preventive’ is the more widely accepted spelling.
Is preventive care the same as physical?
No. Preventive care is a broad term encompassing any proactive health measure, including physical examinations, lab tests, vaccinations, and screenings.
What is included in a preventive exam?
A preventive exam typically includes a physical examination, a review of symptoms and risk factors, and any necessary lab tests. Additionally, it may involve lifestyle counseling and lifestyle modifications to reduce the risk of disease.
What are examples of preventive care?
Preventive care is simply taking care of your body and mind. It’s a healthy lifestyle that includes stress management, regular physical activity, adequate rest, regular health check-ups, vaccinations, and screenings.
Can I claim preventive health check-ups with health insurance?
Yes. Most insurance plans will cover preventive health check-ups, including lab tests and screenings, as part of their coverage. Read your plan’s provisions to determine what is and isn’t covered.