Blood work can be a typical part of your annual wellness checkup with your
doctor. But do you know what it entails? "Your blood can tell your
doctor a lot about your health, so these tests are valuable in preventive
care as well as making sure any ongoing medical conditions are properly
Parveen Vora, MD, a board-certified family medicine physician at
St. Joseph Heritage Medical Group. Dr. Vora tells you what you may expect as part of your blood work:
Complete blood count (CBC)
This workup counts the number of red and white blood cells, as well as
the hemoglobin protein in red blood cells, the platelets you need for
blood clotting, and the area that red blood cells take up in the blood,
which is called the hematocrit. "A CBC is a good way to get a general
picture of your health, but it can also signal if there is something wrong--for
instance, a low number of red blood cells can be a sign of anemia, among
other things, while too many white blood cells can signify an infection,"
Dr. hematocrit. "A CBC is a good way to get a general picture of
your health, but it can also signal if there is something wrong--for instance,
a low number of red blood cells can be a sign of anemia, among other things,
while too many white blood cells can signify an infection," Dr. Vora says.
Basic metabolic panel (BMP)
By looking at the chemicals in the blood, the BMP can tell your physician
if your body is functioning properly. Among the levels that are measured:
blood glucose, electrolytes and calcium to check for possible disease,
creatinine and blood urea nitrogen for kidney function and the muscle
protein troponin, which can be a red flag for damage to the heart.
If you've ever had your cholesterol checked, this is the test that
was used. In addition to the overall cholesterol number, this test breaks
down the levels for your "bad" LDL cholesterol and "good"
HDL cholesterol, as well as the fat in your blood called triglycerides.
"This panel is necessary to evaluate your chances of developing heart
disease, and it helps doctors know if treatment is working for patients
with coronary problems," Dr. Vora says.
For a CBC only, there are no limitations on what you can eat or drink before
the test, but fasting is required prior to the BMP and lipoprotein panel.
"Your doctor may recommend a fasting period of no less than eight
hours, so you'll want to have your blood drawn in the morning to count
the hours you've been sleeping overnight as part of the fast,"
Dr. Vora says. You'll also want to wear a shirt with sleeves that
allow easy access for the healthcare technician to draw blood from your
inner elbow, although sometimes blood is taken from the back of the hand.
Finally, make sure your doctor follows up with you on the results. "Abnormal
results don't automatically mean something is wrong, as other factors
can affect the measurements, such as diet or medication," Dr. Vora
says. "But if you have any concerns, ask to go over the findings
and if there are numbers you want to have, such as your cholesterol level,
make sure you get those."
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