Your doctor scheduled some lab tests—what are they for?

November 23, 2020 | by Edward-Elmhurst Health
Categories: Healthy Driven Life

You know how it feels when something is “off” with your health.

Aches and pains, feeling thirsty all the time or other recurring discomforts get our attention and help our doctors figure out what’s going on.

But there are some conditions that won’t alert you with symptoms. That’s where lab tests come in.

There’s a lot a doctor can learn from a lab test. They’re a vital part of your regular health exam.

There are some lab tests doctors want to run at regular intervals starting in adulthood. As you age, there are different additional tests that help keep tabs on your health.

Having lab tests done doesn’t require a lot of your time, especially when you schedule your tests online or through the MyEEHealthTM app.

Starting at age 20, your doctor will periodically test your blood for:

  • 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. 
    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. If you’re at an average risk of developing heart disease, it’s a good idea to get your cholesterol checked every five years.
  • 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.

At age 35, your doctor may begin testing your thyroid function.

  • 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. This test is usually run every five years.

Around age 40, your doctor may increase the frequency of the previous test, and order these additional tests:

  • Diabetes screening. An A1C test measures your blood sugar level. Higher A1C levels usually indicate prediabetes or diabetes. If the test reveals your A1C level is above 5.7 percent, your doctor may order additional tests.
  • Prostate test. A prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test measures the amount of this protein in a man’s blood, usually to screen for prostate cancer. If the level is higher than 4 ng/ml, your doctor may order additional tests.

After age 65, experts recommend women get a DEXA Bone Density Scan. This can identify low bone density and help your doctor assess your risk for developing bone fractures.

You can schedule lab tests and screenings online at your convenience at

With the MyEEHealth™ app you can find a doctor, schedule an in-person or virtual visit, and keep track of your health from the comfort of anywhere. Download MyEEHealth for Apple or Android.


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