If you’ve gone to your doctor for a wellness check recently, he or she probably recommended that you get routine blood work done. Routine blood screenings can help your doctor detect many life-changing or life-threatening diseases early such as diabetes, kidney disease, heart disease and even some cancers. But did you know there are 10 different blood tests, and they all measure different things?
If you’re simply curious about blood tests or recently had one done but aren’t sure what it means, we’re breaking down the 10 most common blood tests to help bring some clarity.
Types of Blood Tests
Basic Metabolic Panel (BMP)
A BMP requires you to fast for at least eight hours before your blood is drawn and checks for levels of certain compounds in the blood, like:
- Blood urea nitrogen (BUN)
- Carbon dioxide
Abnormal levels may indicate diabetes, hormone imbalances or kidney disease. Follow-up tests may be necessary to diagnose any of these conditions.
Blood Glucose Test
This common test calculates the amount of glucose — or sugar — in your body. Glucose levels over 100 mg/dL may indicate your risk of developing diabetes. However, if your results do come back high, don’t panic. Sometimes your body has not digested everything in your stomach. Your doctor will likely ask you to repeat the test before considering your blood sugar an issue.
This test measures how well your blood clots and how long it takes for your blood to clot. Clotting is crucial to help stop bleeding after a cut or wound, but a clot in the vein or artery can be deadly. A coagulation panel allows a doctor to assess your health and any underlying conditions that may affect clotting.
Results from a coagulation panel can be used to diagnose:
- Acute myeloid leukemia
- Hemophilia (excessive bleeding)
- Liver conditions
- Vitamin K deficiency
Complete Blood Count (CBC)
A CBC measures the amount of the three major types of blood cells in your body: white blood cells (WBC), red blood cells (RBC) and platelets.
White blood cells make up your immune system. These little warriors protect you against germs, infections and diseases every day. Normal WBC counts range between 4,000 per microliter to 11,000 per microliter for adults. A high WBC count can indicate an infection or trauma, while a low WBC count can predict viral and bacterial infections.
Red blood cells carry oxygen through your body. You depend on these cells specifically to create healthy tissues. Differences in the shape and quantity of RBCs can impact your overall health in many ways. Although abnormal levels of red blood cells can’t detect certain diseases, they can offer guidance when it comes to additional testing.
Platelet counts tell us how well our blood clots and how many platelets we have in our body. Whenever you skin your knee or cut yourself on broken glass, platelet cells come to the rescue to thicken our blood and form scabs. Normal platelet counts range between 150,000 per microliter to 450,000 per microliter. Abnormal platelet scores can indicate how your body responds to trauma or injuries and can put you at risk for blood clots.
Comprehensive Metabolic Panel (CMP)
This collection of tests measures the health of your kidneys and liver. They also monitor the amount of glucose, fluids and electrolytes in your body. The 14 tests that usually make up this panel can detect a variety of issues, such as diabetes, heart disease and nutritional deficiencies.
Your immune system depends on a balance of all these different factors to stay whole and healthy.
C-reactive Protein (CRP) Test
Your liver makes CRP when tissues in your body are inflamed. A CRP test can with high CRP levels can indicate inflammation from a variety of causes, such as:
- Artery inflammation
- Heart disease
- Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
- Rheumatoid arthritis
DHEA-sulfate Serum Test
The DHEA hormone is produced by your adrenal glands, and the DHEA-sulfate serum test measures whether it’s too high or too low. DHEA in men helps develop body hair growth, so low levels are abnormal. DHEA deficiency in men can be caused by:
- Anorexia nervosa
- Kidney disease
- Type 2 diabetes
High levels of DHEA in women can cause typically male traits, such as excess body hair, to develop. High levels in women, and abnormally high levels in men, can be caused by:
- Abnormal genital development
- Cancer or tumor in adrenal glands
- Early-onset of puberty from congenital adrenal hyperplasia
- Polycystic ovary syndrome (in women)
Enzymes are proteins in your body that help with certain chemical processes, like breaking down food and blood clotting. The enzyme markers test helps doctors identify if your levels are too high or too low.
- Four main enzymes that are tested:
- CPK-1 (creatine phosphokinase): This is found in your brain and lungs. High levels can indicate brain injuries or cancer.
- CPK-2 (CK-MB): This is found in your heart. You may have higher levels if you’ve suffered a heart attack.
- CPK-3: This is also found in your heart. Increased levels can result from muscle inflammation, injury or intense exercise.
- Troponin: This heart enzyme can leak into your blood after a heart injury.
A lipid panel measures the amount of cholesterol and triglycerides (fats) in our blood. The two common types of cholesterol — HDL and LDL — can affect your health in several ways.
HDL (good) cholesterol can protect us against heart disease. A result of about 150 mg/dL (milligrams per deciliter) is considered normal.
LDL (bad) cholesterol can clog your arteries and cause serious conditions like heart attacks and strokes. A score over 200 mg/dL may mean you’re at risk.
Triglycerides are fat cells we store in our bodies. Like LDL cholesterol, they can cause serious heart conditions without treatment.
Simple changes to your diet and lifestyle will go a long way in getting those lipid levels under control. Talk with your doctor about what you can do to stay heart-healthy.
Thyroid Stimulating Hormone Test (TSH)
A little organ that sits at the bottom of your brain, called the pituitary gland, produces a hormone that controls your thyroid. Higher test results may indicate hypothyroidism, a condition that happens as a result of your thyroid not making enough hormones. Lower test results may suggest that you have hyperthyroidism, a condition where your thyroid is producing too many hormones.
Many medications can help control abnormal TSH levels. Your doctor will work with you to balance out those hormones and restore your well-being.
When Should You Get a Blood Test?
You should get routine blood work done at least once a year. Your doctor will typically recommend a panel of tests when you go in for your yearly physical exam. More frequent blood tests might be needed if:
- You’re experiencing unusual, persistent symptoms such as sudden weight loss or new pain
- You want to optimize your health, like maintaining healthy cholesterol
- You want to reduce your risk of disease or complications; many heart, lung and kidney conditions can be caught early through blood tests
Getting a blood test is just one step closer to feeling whole. Talk to your doctor if you’re experiencing any new or unusual symptoms and schedule a lab appointment at any of our locations in your community.