Haims: Blood — Evaluating your risk of disease
When you leave your doctor’s office after a checkup and are told that “all looks good,” what does that really mean?
Odds are, the purpose of most medical office visits is to address a known concern like a cold, flu, respiratory, ache/pain or anxiety. However, even when the purpose for an office visit is more specific and evaluates blood pressure, infection, cholesterol or a neurologic concern, are you leaving the office knowing that there are no other health concerns that could (or should) be addressed?
If your medical provider informed you that they had a very sophisticated and accurate diagnostic tool that could reveal ailments that were affecting your current and even future health, would you want to know? If your medical provider had the ability to run diagnostics that could inform you that there was a possible concern, from head to toe, would you go so far as to take corrective actions?
The diagnostic testing I am alluding to is blood testing. Our blood holds the key to understanding our body’s health. It transports oxygen, nutrients and hormones. As well, it protects our body from pathogens, helps repair damaged areas, regulates our temperature and transports waste substances to the organs (lungs, kidneys, and digestive system) that remove and process them for elimination.
From a small amount of drawn blood, medical providers can gain vital information of how our organs are working and if potential health risks exist. There are many types of blood tests — some can even detect diseases, degeneration and other conditions of concern before symptoms appear.
Unfortunately, understanding blood lab results can be quite confusing. Results aren’t always straightforward to read and depending on the lab, results can be put in different orders. Sometimes the normal range is in front of the result and sometimes it is the other way around. Further, because many laboratories use different equipment and testing methods, reference ranges can vary and thus what’s considered normal and/or abnormal can also slightly vary.
Although there are many different types of blood tests, each testing for specific results, the three most common are: complete blood count (CBC), comprehensive metabolic panel (CMP) and the lipid panel.
The CBC is a common blood test frequently ordered as part of a routine checkup. The CBC test evaluates red blood cells, white blood cells, hemoglobin and platelets. It provides a comprehensive overview of health and assists in diagnosing/monitoring medical conditions.
As the name suggests, the CMP test provides information about your metabolism (the way your body uses energy). It is used to assist medical providers in diagnosing and monitoring conditions such as kidney disease, liver disease, high blood pressure and diabetes. For patients taking medication for these conditions, the test also helps medical providers make sure medications aren’t hurting your liver or kidneys.
The lipid panel is a blood test that measures fats and fatty substances used as a source of energy in the body. Lipids are found in your blood and stored in tissues. They include cholesterol, triglycerides, high-density lipoprotein (HDL) and low-density lipoprotein (LDL).
Should you choose to be proactive in your health management and know about the quality of your current health and/or risks that may be developing, make an appointment with your medical provider and get detailed blood tests. Not only will you gain valuable information about your health today, but more importantly you will able to establish a benchmark to monitor your health status looking forward.
Even if you live a relatively healthy lifestyle by eating well and exercising, your body changes as you age. Having a thorough understanding of your blood work is empowering and will enable you to make choices that may help stop preventable chronic diseases before they cause you serious concerns.
You can’t assess your health simply by how you look and feel.
You need to know your numbers. Ask your medical provider to go over anything in your blood work that is outside of the normal range. Knowing how your blood results are trending overtime is a great tool in understanding your overall health.
Judson Haims is the owner of Visiting Angels Home Care in Vail, Beaver Creek, and throughout Eagle County. He is an advocate for our elderly and is available to answer questions. His contact information is, http://www.visitingangels.com/comtns, 970-328-5526.
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