Every year, laboratories run around 3.3 billion blood, saliva, and other diagnostic tests to monitor people's health or discover the causes behind particular symptoms.
Of these tests, blood tests are among the most widespread and helpful in detecting a wide range of enzymes that can indicate potential health risks. Regular blood tests can help keep track of chemical and physiological changes in your body.
Here's what you need to know about blood work tests for health screening.
Why Are Blood Tests Important for Health Screening?
Some studies criticize doctors for relying too heavily on unnecessary blood work. Yet, these tests can play an important role in health care.
The major benefits of blood tests for health screening, include diagnosing, monitoring, and treating patients as quickly and accurately as possible.
They're a cost-effective way to harvest large quantities of information about a patient's health, and allow doctors to personalize treatments more accurately.
Regular blood tests can help patients keep track of their overall well-being. Some of the things that blood tests can detect include:
- Organ function
- Genetic conditions
- Risk of heart disease
- Hemoglobin levels
- Blood-borne diseases like HIV, anemia, and coronary heart disease
In most cases, a blood test takes a few seconds, and you can have it done at your doctor's surgery or local hospital.
Those with mobility or other issues can also order home blood tests from a qualified phlebotomist, click here to find out more about this service.
Types of Blood Work Tests
While the mechanics of blood tests remain the same, laboratory technicians analyze the samples in different ways and seek different things depending on the desired outcome.
These are the most common types of blood tests these professionals use today:
Complete Blood Count (CBC)
The complete blood count (CBC) usually takes place as part of a routine checkup. It centers around measuring the relationship between the different components of your blood, i.e., red cells, white cells, and platelets.
These tests also analyze the size of each blood cell type. These blood tests can alert doctors to the presence of the following problems:
- Blood cholesterol
- Bleeding and blood clotting disorders
- Sickle Cell Disease
Red Blood Cell Count
Red blood cells transport oxygen and carbon dioxide around your body. Males should have between five and six million red blood cells per microliter of blood, while females should have four to five million cells per microliter.
A red blood cell count enumerated the cells per microliter, measures their size, and notes the percentage of hemoglobin and hematocrit in the blood.
Abnormal red blood cell counts can indicate anemia, dehydration, and bleeding.
White Blood Cell Count
White blood cells help fight infections and promote healing. There are three main types of white blood cells, namely:
Normal levels of white blood cells are 4,500 to 5,000 cells per microliter. An Unusually high or low number of white blood cells may indicate blood cancer, autoimmune disorders, or infection.
Platelets, also called thrombocytes, are tiny, colorless cell fragments in the blood. They help form clots and limit bleeding.
Like white and red blood cells, platelets originate in the bone marrow. Normal levels of blood platelets are 140,000 to 450,000 cells per microliter.
Too many platelets can increase your risk of blood clots, while too few means you could bleed excessively when injured.
Hemoglobin is a vital component of red blood cells. It's made from a protein called heme, which binds oxygen so that it may travel via the bloodstream.
Healthy human beings should have fourteen to seventeen grams of hemoglobin per deciliter, while females need twelve to fifteen grams per deciliter of blood.
Too little hemoglobin can be a sign of sickle cell disease, thalassemia, or anemia.
Hematocrit Level Test
This test measures the percentage of red blood cells in your blood. Normal levels should be 41% to 50% for males, and 36–44% for females.
Low hematocrit levels often indicate anemia.
Mean Corpuscular Volume
MCV is a measure of the volume of red blood cells, i.e., how big and heavy they are. Normal levels are 0-95 femtoliter (one quadrillionth of a liter).
Abnormalities can indicate thalassemia or anemia.
Apart from illness and gender, other factors can impact the normal ranges for all these tests. These include altitude, race, and age.
Your healthcare provider will know what the optimal levels are for your circumstances and advise you about treatment if they pick up any abnormalities.
Blood Chemistry Tests
Also known as the basic metabolic panel, this group of tests analyzes the plasma part of the blood. They measure the different chemicals found naturally in this fluid.
A BMP can provide information about your organs, like the liver, kidneys, and heart. They're most often used to check for signs of high blood pressure and heart failure.
The test measures the levels of the following in your plasma:
- blood urea nitrogen (BUN)
- bicarbonate (CO2)
BUN and Creatinine levels can show how well the kidneys are performing, while bicarbonate can indicate an acid imbalance.
The rest of these electrolytes must remain in balance for optimal health. Severe abnormalities in a BMP can constitute a medical emergency.
Comprehensive Metabolic Panel tests include measures of protein and albumin levels, as well as liver function tests.
Blood enzyme tests are useful when checking for signs of a heart attack.
Enzymes help control the chemical reactions that take place within your body. High levels of troponin and CK-MB can indicate muscle damage due to a heart attack.
Doctors use lipoprotein panels to check for the following:
- Atherosclerosis (LDL and HDL)
- Blood cholesterol levels
- Coronary heart disease
- Blood triglycerides
Elevated cholesterol and triglyceride levels can indicate a risk of coronary heart disease. Most people need to fast for up to 12 hours before taking one of these blood tests.
Pregnancy tests are a type of blood chemistry test centered on detecting hCG (human chorionic gonadotropin). Pregnant women have elevated levels of hCG in their bloodstream, but it can also indicate lung, uterine, ovarian, and breast cancer.
The human body creates ammonia when it breaks down protein. Too much ammonia can cause excessive fatigue and neurological problems. In extreme cases, it can lead to coma and eventually, death.
Too much carbon dioxide in your blood may indicate respiratory, metabolic, or kidney problems. This test measures the amount of this gas in your blood to help detect these issues early.
Coagulation tests measure your blood's clotting ability. They're commonly used to monitor people who take blood-thinning medication, like Coumadin.
TSH, or Thyroid Stimulating Hormone, maintains thyroid hormone secretion. As such, it indicates how well the thyroid is functioning at the time of a blood test.
Lower than normal levels of TSH may suggest an underactive thyroid, while high levels indicate an overactive thyroid. Thyroid problems can cause Hashimoto's disease, extreme fatigue, and an inability to maintain a healthy weight.
There are four main types of thyroid tests:
- Thyroid-stimulating hormone testing to measure TSH
- T4 test to detect hyper- or hypothyroidism
- T3 test to confirm hyperthyroidism
- A thyroid antibody test for autoimmune disorders like Hashimoto's disease or Grave's disease
Some people don't show any symptoms of a malfunctioning thyroid until serious symptoms develop. So, it's a good idea to get a doctor to check your thyroid levels regularly.
Liver Function Tests
These important tests help doctors detect liver disease or damage early on. They can also use the tests to monitor liver conditions in patients already diagnosed with these problems.
The test focuses mainly on measuring aspartate transaminase (AST) and alanine transaminase (ALT). AST works to metabolize amino acids, while ALT helps convert proteins into energy.
A malfunctioning liver releases large amounts of these enzymes into the bloodstream. A liver function test also measures the total protein in the blood, as well as the following enzymes:
- Alkaline phosphatase (ALP)
- Gamma-glutamyl transferase (GGT)
- Lactate dehydrogenase (LDH)
- Prothrombin time (PT)
Inconsistencies in any of these levels can be a sign of liver problems.
Blood Clotting Tests
Problems with the body's blood clotting process can cause serious issues. These may include excessive, prolonged bleeding after an injury, or spontaneous bleeding.
A coagulation panel can help detect signs of these problems and help a doctor determine the correct treatment for each case.
These tests check the number of proteins in your blood that impact its ability to clot. A doctor may order these tests on their own or as part of a wider-reaching CBC
Vitamin D Tests
Vitamin D is abundantly available courtesy of the sun. Yet, our indoor lifestyles mean many people end up with a shortage of this vital vitamin.
A deficiency in this vitamin D can indicate several serious conditions, like:
- autoimmune dysfunction
- increased fracture risk
- cardiovascular disease
- multiple sclerosis
- lowered immunity
- type 1 diabetes
Regular vitamin D tests can help you pick up any deficiencies before they become serious issues and help your doctor prevent disaster.
How Often Should You Get Blood Tests?
Most people get blood tests done when they undergo a routine health screening, or when their doctor requests them. If you have a chronic condition, you might need to go for routine blood tests more frequently.
In some cases, when you have conflicting symptoms, your doctor will order a blood test to help diagnose your illness. These are the most common reasons for blood tests:
Routine Health Checks
As blood tests are so helpful in detecting early warning signs as well as actual diseases, they're an important part of routine health checks. As you age, your doctor may recommend these tests more frequently.
It's important to monitor blood glucose levels during pregnancy. Around 2 to 10% of women can develop gestational diabetes during pregnancy.
This condition disappears after pregnancy, but it can harm the fetus and increases the mother's risk of developing type II diabetes later in life. When they detect it early via a blood test, doctors can use medication to limit the negative effects of this condition.
Blood tests are a great way to keep track of how a patient is responding to treatment. For instance, if you're suffering from systemic lupus erythematosus, you may need regular tests to keep a count of your white blood cell count and erythrocyte sedimentation rate.
Your doctor will order blood work if they suspect you may have a medical condition, or if you have symptoms that could result from various ailments.
For instance, several things can cause weight irregularities, but they'll need a blood test to confirm their suspicions of thyroid disease.
Reading the Test Results
Blood test results usually comprise little more than a series of numbers. As such, you'll need some help deciphering them. Your doctor will explain everything you need to know when they receive your test results.
Depending on the urgency of the situation, blood tests can take hours, days, or weeks to finalize. Specialized tests take longer, while an emergency test in the hospital takes less than an hour.
Preventive Measures are the Key to Good Health
If you're feeling under the weather and not sure why, blood work tests can shed light on the matter and help you find relief. Despite what critics say, blood tests are an excellent early warning system that can prevent much pain and suffering.
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