Top 5 blood tests and what they mean for your health

Blood tests are one important way to stay on top of your overall health. What do the top 5 blood tests mean for you?

Blood tests are one of the best ways for your doctor to get a good picture of your overall health. The top five blood tests show how your internal organs are working and are markers for various conditions such as heart disease or diabetes.

“It’s important to stay on top of your health, and getting these top five blood tests is one way to do it,” said Monalisa M. Tailor, M.D., an internal medicine physician with Norton Community Medical Associates.

Complete blood count (CBC)

This test measures various parts of the blood. The normal range may vary slightly from one laboratory to another. The general ranges are listed below.

White blood cells: These are immune cells that attack viruses, bacteria and other invaders.  4,500 to 11,000 per microliter (mm3)  
Hemoglobin: This is a protein that helps red blood cells carry oxygen to the organs and tissues and take carbon dioxide to the lungs.  150,000 to 400,000 per mm3  
Hematocrit: This refers to how much of the overall blood is made of red blood cells.  male: 41% to 53%; female: 36% to 46%  
Platelets: This substance controls blood clotting.  male: 13.5 to 17.5 grams/deciliter (g/dL); female: 12.0 to 16.0 g/dL  

Basic metabolic panel (BMP)

“This test checks for several substances in your blood,” Dr. Tailor said. “These are indicators of chemical balance, metabolism and possibly disease.”

A BMP checks for:

Glucose, a type of sugar and your body’s main source of energy.

Calcium, one of the body’s most important minerals. Calcium is essential for proper functioning of your nerves, muscles and heart.

Sodium, potassium, carbon dioxide and chloride. These are electrolytes, electrically charged minerals that help control the amount of fluids and the balance of acids and bases in your body.

BUN (blood urea nitrogen) and creatinine, waste products removed from your blood by your kidneys. sometimes the BUN can be higher if you are fasting for your blood work.

GFR (glomerular filtration rate)- a calculation of your kidney function.

“We look for any abnormalities in these substances,” Dr. Tailor said. “Anything too high or too low might be a sign of something else. A BMP checks everything from kidney health and fluid balance to blood sugar levels and metabolism.”

Comprehensive metabolic panel (CMP)

The CMP includes the measures for the BMP (above) as well as proteins and substances related to how well the liver is performing.

A CMP blood test measures:

 High levelsLow levels
Alkaline phosphatase (ALP) – an enzyme found in bones and liver• Bile duct blockage
• Cirrhosis
• Gallbladder inflammation
• Gallstones
• Hepatitis
• Paget’s disease
• Bone metabolism disorders
• Heart surgery
• Malnourishment
• Zinc deficiency  
Alanine aminotransferase (ALT) – a liver enzyme• Cirrhosis
• Hepatitis
• Liver cancer
• Liver damage
Considered normal  
Aspartate aminotransferase (AST) – an enzyme in body tissue including the liver• Cirrhosis
• Heart conditions
• Hepatitis
• Mononucleosis (mono)
• Pancreatitis  
Considered normal
Bilirubin – the waste from red blood cells breaking down and filtered by the liver• Abnormal red blood cell destruction (hemolysis)
• Adverse medication reactions
• Bile duct blockage
• Gilbert syndrome
• Hepatitis  
Not a concern

Lipid panel

A lipid panel looks at two types of cholesterol in the blood: high-density lipoprotein (HDL), often referred to as “good” cholesterol, and low-density lipoprotein (LDL), often referred to as the “bad” cholesterol.

Typically, you will be asked to refrain from eating or drinking anything except water for eight to 12 hours before a lipid panel test. The results are reported as milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL).

HDL>60 mg/dLmale: <40 mg/dL; female: <50 mg/dL (low)
LDL>160 mg/dL<100 mg/dL (optimal)

Thyroid panel

Your thyroid is a tiny gland in your neck. It helps regulate bodily functions like your mood, energy level and overall metabolism. A thyroid panel, or thyroid function test, checks how well the thyroid is producing and reacting to certain hormones, such as:

Triiodothyronine (T3): Along with T4, this regulates heart rate and body temperature.

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Thyroxine (T4): Along with T3, this regulates metabolism and growth.

Thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) Helps regulate the levels of hormones the thyroid releases.

Here are normal results:

T3: 80 to 180 nanograms per deciliter of blood (ng/dL)

T4: 0.8 to 1.8 ng/dL in adults

TSH: 0.5 to 4 milli-international units per liter of blood (mIU/L)

Abnormal levels of these hormones can indicate numerous conditions, such as:

Low protein levels

Thyroid growth disorders

Abnormal levels of testosterone or estrogen

“There are other blood tests your doctor might ask a lab to complete,” Dr. Tailor said. “You might need to check different hormones or vitamin levels, for instance.”

How often should I get blood tests?

“For most healthy adults, I would recommend once a year,” Dr. Tailor said. “You can schedule blood tests when you have your routine annual physical.”

Test results usually come back within one to three days and can be seen when you sign in to your MyNortonChart account.

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