A blood test can be one of the most informative measures in preventive medicine. A chemistry panel and complete blood count is a good place to start. A CBC measures many different things, including, but not limited to, white blood count, red blood count, platelet count, hemoglobin, and hematocrit. Hemoglobin measures the amount of oxygen in your blood cells, and hematocrit measures the ratio of red blood cells to fluid for plasma. If any of these tests are not within the normal range, it may indicate an underlying condition or disease and further testing may be necessary.
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If the red blood count, platelet count, hemoglobin and hematocrit are lower than the normal range it can indicate anemia or low iron, which can be a standalone condition or an indication of a more serious matter. A low white blood cell count can indicate an autoimmune disorder or cancer. If the platelet count is outside of the normal range, it can indicate various medical conditions and more testing is needed to properly diagnose. A lipid panel is another common blood test for tracking cholesterol levels.
Another test that your doctor may recommend is fibrinogen. If your fibrinogen levels are higher than the normal levels, it can indicate inflammation of tissues in the body, including the heart. There was a study done in Hong Kong that indicated that elevated fibrinogen levels are a key indicator of mortality with heart disease and stroke.
Another important blood test is a test for blood glucose or the amount of sugar in the blood. The hemoglobin A1C test can track blood glucose levels for them. The American Diabetes Association recommends getting this test every 3 to 6 months for insulin-dependent patients.
Testing DHEA levels are important as we get older. The levels and a normal range vary according to the age of the patient. The DHEA level is in direct correlation to the testosterone and estrogen hormones levels. These levels drop to an all-time low between the ages of 70 and 80 years old. DHEA levels outside of the normal range can affect things, such as mood, bone density, libido, and body composition.
Homocysteine is an amino acid. If the level is high in a blood test, it can be an indicator of heart disease. If the level is too low, it can be an indicator of weak bones. There have been studies done that suggest a high level of homocysteine over a prolonged time can be an indicator of lowered cognitive function.
A blood test for C-reactive protein is helpful to help diagnose various diseases, such as macular degeneration, heart disease, and diabetes. A thyroid test, such as a T3 and T4, can help diagnose hyperthyroid, which is overactive thyroid, or hypothyroid, an underactive thyroid. Some of the symptoms of hypothyroidism include fatigue, weight gain, hoarseness, and muscle weakness. The symptoms for hyperthyroidism include weight loss, nervousness, excessive sweating, heart palpitations, and irritability. There are other conditions that can be related to an over or underactive thyroid including but not limited to heart attack or osteoporosis.
Getting your blood tested annually can help you to identify possible risk factors or underlying conditions that you may or may not be experiencing symptoms from. It is much more beneficial in medicine to be proactive and practice preventive measures rather than to be strictly reactive.
For those patients that take daily medications, blood tests are essential for monitoring liver function and other possible side effects. Many doctors will order the blood test prior to seeing you for your physical because almost 50% of your medical data can be determined through laboratory testing.
There are over a hundred different tests for the blood. Some of the basic tasks, such as complete blood count and a chemistry panel can benefit all patients, but your doctor may order additional testing based on your own individualized medical needs and other relating factors including, but not limited to, your family history, your gender, your race, and your existing medical conditions.