Understanding your blood test results

December 18, 2017 | by Alison Sage, D.O.
Categories: Healthy Driven Life

What, exactly, is the difference between HDL and LDL cholesterol (which one’s good)? And what are triglycerides?

Why should you care about how many white or red blood cells you have circulating?

Because your blood can tell you a lot about how healthy you are. There is so much information pumping through your veins. Doctors can see whether you’re diabetic, anemic or fighting an infection. They can gather clues to how well your liver, heart or thyroid is working.

Blood tests are often part of a routine check-up, as doctors analyze how your body is working. Unless you’re a medical professional, however, the results can be hard to decipher.
Let’s run down common lab tests. When you go to your primary care physician for a check-up, your doctor may want to do a blood draw to check your cholesterol, your blood count (how many red and white blood cells and platelets you have circulating), and a basic metabolic or chemistry panel.

  • Lipid panel = cholesterol. Your doctor will order a lipid panel to get a picture of your cholesterol. Cholesterol is broken up into “good” (HDL) and “bad” (LDL). When LDL or “bad” cholesterol builds up in your arteries it can slow your blood flow, potentially leading to a heart attack or stroke. High cholesterol has no symptoms, so the blood test is vital. Triglycerides are a type of fat in your blood that’s different from cholesterol. If your triglycerides are high, they could contribute to hardening of your arteries the way high LDL cholesterol can. You want your HDL cholesterol to be higher than 45 milligrams (mg) of cholesterol per deciliter (dL) of blood. You want your LDL to be less than 130 mg/dL. Triglycerides should be less than 150 mg/dL, and your total cholesterol shouldn’t break 200 mg/dL. As Mayo Clinic reports, if you’re at an average risk of developing heart disease, it’s a good idea to get your cholesterol checked every five years starting at age 18.
  • Complete blood count (CBC). This is a routine test to evaluate your general health. It can also detect a range of diseases, so doctors order this test to shed light on symptoms like fatigue or bruises. The CBC checks your levels of white blood cells, red blood cells and platelets. White blood cells help fight infection, so you’d have a higher number if that’s the case. A high or low number of red blood cells could indicate different diseases. Platelets, which help your blood clot, outside a normal range could also indicate disease.
  • Basic vs. complete/comprehensive metabolic panel. The basic metabolic panel tests your blood glucose (blood sugar), kidney function, and levels of calcium, sodium and potassium. The complete metabolic panel includes all those tests plus liver function tests. These tests could be ordered as part of a routine check-up or if your doctor wants to check for specific diseases.
  • Thyroid function. This test checks the level of thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) in your blood. A high count could signify hypothyroidism; a low count, hyperthyroidism. Both conditions come with a host of symptoms, and this test can help your doctor rule out other diseases.

It’s important to find a physician you feel comfortable with and confident in, who partners with you in your personal health goals. Find the right Healthy Driven doctor for you.

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