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Nutritional Blood Test Practice

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A blood test is great way to help you become aware of the general health of your body and your system's needs; letting you know where you can focus your efforts for the strongest results. The health of your blood can tell you a lot about your body, including if you're getting enough of the essential micronutrients your body needs to provide energy.  A blood test looks at your metabolic rates, cholesterol and triglyceride levels, quantities of key nutrients like iron and your risk for health problems like Diabetes and kidney disorder. It lets you know if you're getting enough of the essential micronutrients your body needs to provide energy and alerts you to bad habits that may be draining your quality of life. Teach yourself about what blood tests can monitor and work with a health professional to pick the right mix of tests for your age, gender and lifestyle.

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You can Expect: accurate information about how you're functioning and what you can do to look and feel better.  It's empowering.

Level of Effort: Easy

Time Involved: 3 minutes (actual testing time), 2 hours total with appointment and results review

 

Getting Started:

  1. Schedule a test
  2. Understand what is being tested
  3. Make changes based on your results

 

What to Consider:

 


 

1. Schedule a test

  • Talk to your doctor or find a licensed clinical laboratory in your area.
  • Many blood tests don't require any special preparation and take only a few minutes. Other blood tests require fasting (not eating any food) for 8 to 12 hours before the test. Your doctor or the lab technician will tell you how to prepare for the test(s) you're having.
  • A blood test can be done in two ways. The most common, as well as most detailed blood test is done through drawing vials of blood from the a vein in the arm. This is done using a needle connected to the vial. A blood test can also be done by pricking your finger. In this method the tip of your finger is poked by a small needle. A small tube is placed against the area, and blood is forced into the tube.
  • There are home blood testing kits which are becoming a more popular option for blood testing from the comfort of your own home. However, it is important to keep in mind that a home test will not be as accurate or controlled as a test done in a physician's office. Any results you obtain from a home test should be verified by a medical professional. A home blood test involves using the provided sterile needle to prick your finger. You then put the drop of blood onto a special piece of provided paper, seal the paper into an envelope, and send the blood to a laboratory for testing.

 

2. What is tested

There are three main test you will want to get or have your doctor order:

 

1. Blood Chemistry Panel - tests your basic metabolic rate

The basic metabolic panel (BMP) is a group of tests that measures different chemicals in the blood. The tests can give doctors information about your muscles (including the heart), bones, and organs, such as the kidneys and liver. The BMP includes blood glucose, calcium, and electrolyte tests, as well as blood tests that measure kidney function.

What is tested:

  • Blood Glucose - Glucose is a type of sugar that the body uses for energy. Abnormal glucose levels in your blood may be a sign of diabetes. This test can measure how fast sugar is cleared from the blood. The slower it takes to clear, the more likely you are to get diabetes, insulin resistance and other diseases that can be contracted from too much food.
  • Calcium - Calcium is an important mineral in the body. Calcium is related to bone metabolism and deals with muscle contraction. It helps with trauma, infection and stress. Abnormal calcium levels can be a sign of kidney problems, bone disease, thyroid disease, cancer, or malnutrition.
  • Electrolytes - Electrolytes are minerals that help maintain fluid levels and acid-base balance in the body. Sodium, potassium, chloride and carbon dioxide are all electrolytes that the kidneys help keep in balance. Abnormal electrolyte levels may be a sign of dehydration, kidney disease, liver disease, heart failure, or high blood pressure.
  • Kidneys - Tests kidney function by measuring the levels of blood urea nitrogen (BUN) and Creatinine. Both of which are waste products that the kidneys filter out of the body. Abnormal BUN and Creatinine levels may be signs of a kidney disease or disorder.
  • Protein - Looks for an indication of proper kidney and liver function. Albumin, produced in the liver, deals with a certain pressure between blood and tissue fluids. Globulin is tested for any degenerative inflammatory and infectious processes.
  • Alkaline phosphatase - if level is elevated it indicates a liver, bone or intestinal problem. ALT and AST are tests to indicate liver damage or dysfunction.

 

2. Lipid Panel - Cholesterol risk assessment test

A lipoprotein panel is a blood test that can help show whether you're at risk for coronary heart disease (CHD). This test looks at substances in your blood that carry cholesterol, which includes LDL and HDL cholesterol and triglycerides. Abnormal cholesterol and triglyceride levels may be signs of increased risk for CHD.

What is tested:

  • Total cholesterol
  • LDL ("bad") cholesterol -  This is the main source of cholesterol buildup and blockages in the arteries.
  • HDL ("good") cholesterol. This type of cholesterol helps decrease blockages in the arteries.
  • Triglycerides - a type of fat in your blood.

 

3. Complete Blood Count (CBC)

A Complete Blood Count (CBC) is the most common blood test (actually a measurement of 15 individual tests) and it tells you a great deal about your current health state and can highlight anything that requires attention. The CBC gives information about a person's blood which is used to determine their general health status, including iron levels and thyroid functioning.

What is tested:

  • Red Blood Cells - carry oxygen from your lungs to the rest of your body. Abnormal red blood cell levels may be a sign of anemia, dehydration (too little fluid in the body), bleeding, or another disorder. The red blood cell count (RBC) is a measurement of how well your body's blood cells can deliver oxygen to the body. Low values can indicate anemia. (The normal range is 4.20 to 5.70)
  • White Blood Cells - part of your immune system, which fights infections and diseases. High concentrations can indicate disease or infection. (The normal range is 3,900 to 10,000 (mm3))
  • Platelets - The platelet count is the number of platelets that are manufactured by your bone marrow and is an indicator or how well your blood clots after bleeding. Abnormal platelet levels may be a sign of a bleeding disorder (not enough clotting) or a thrombotic disorder (too much clotting). (The normal range is 140,000 to 390,000 (mm3))
  • Mean Platelet Volume (MPV) - reflects the average volume of your patelets. High MPV is associated with a high risk of heart attack and stroke. (The normal range is 7.5 to 11.5)
  • Hemoglobin - a protein in the blood and is another indicator of how well your blood delivers oxygen to the body. Abnormal hemoglobin levels may be a sign of iron-deficiency anemia or some other blood disorder. Iron is vital to a number of life processes. Most importantly, it allows your body to produce hemoglobin, a substance in the blood that helps it carry oxygen to the various parts of the body. Anemia means the blood cannot carry oxygen, the symptoms include shortness of breath and chronic fatigue. Hemoglobin is particularly important in high performance exercises like cycling, running and swimming. (The normal range is 13.2 to 16.9) Blood Iron
  • Hematocrit - a measure of how much space red blood cells take up in your blood. A high hematocrit level might mean you're dehydrated. A low Hematocrit level might mean you have anemia (see Hemoglobin above for information about anemia and iorn deficiency). (The normal range is 38.5 to 49.0%)
  • Mean Corpuscular Hemoglobin (MCH) - represents the amount of hemoglobin in each of your red blood cells. Together with Hemoglobin and Hematocrit, low values can indicate anemia. (The normal range is 27.5 to 33.5)
  • Mean Corpuscular Volume (MCV) - a measure of the average size of your red blood cells. Abnormally large or small red blood cells can indicate anemia or other diseases. (The normal range is 80 to 97)
  • Mean Corpuscular Hemoglobin Concentration (MCHC) - another measurement of the amount of Hemoglobin in your red blood cells and together with the MCH, it helps to diagnose anemia and other blood diseases. (The normal range is 32.0 to 36.0%)
  • Red Cell Distribution Width (RCW) - a measurement of the widths of your blood cells. Together with the MCV, it can indicate anemia. (The normal range is 11.0 to 15.0)
  • Neutrophils - a type of granulocyte and are indicators of bacterial infection. (The normal range is between 38 and 80 percent of the WBC)
  • Lymphocyte Percentage - represent a combination of T-cells, B-cells and Natural Killer (NK) cells. High numbers represent infections. (The normal range is between 15 and 40 percent of the WBC)
  • Monocytes - cells that digest germs. Lower numbers indicate a higher risk for infection. (The normal range is 0.0 to 13.0)
  • Eosinophils - types of cells that produce "histamine" in inflammations and are higher in allergies and parasitic infections. (The normal range is 0.0 to 8.0)
  • Basophils - control damage to the body's tissues. 9The normal range is 0.0 to 2.0)

 

3. Make changes based on your results

A normal reading on a blood test is different for everyone. Different factors such as age, prescription medications, hormones, diet, and stress levels can cause tests to vary outside of the normal range. However, if you are falling into a range that is indicated as high or low you should move forward with trying to remedy the situation. Remedies can range from visiting your doctor for additional testing to taking supplements for specific issues.

Results can take anywhere from a few minutes to a few weeks to come back. Your doctor should get the results. It's important that you follow up with your doctor to discuss your test results.

For example, if you have low iron levels try taking an iron supplement. Then get retested 90 days later.

 

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Why it's Important

In addition to basic nutrients and vitamins, the human body requires a certain amount of various minerals in order to perform its everyday functions. About 4% of the human body is made of minerals, including zinc, copper, sodium, potassium and iron. The body cannot manufacture minerals, so they must be taken in through the food we consume. Thus it's important to be sure to make dietary choices that keep a healthy mineral balance in the system. This includes keeping close tabs on the levels of iron in the blood.

There are many benefits as to why you should monitor your blood health. Aside from ensuring your getting enough vitamins and minerals blood test are great for monitoring your risk of certain conditions, such as:

  • Diabetes
  • Kidney disorder
  • Assessing heart disease risk

 

Testing Procedures and What To Expect

Once the blood sample has been taken, the vials are sent off to a laboratory. In the laboratory a medical technologist will test the blood according to the reason for testing. Different reasons require separate testing methods. However, the same sample of blood can usually be used for all the testing procedures.

What To Expect During Blood Tests

  • Drawing blood usually takes less than 3 minutes. Blood usually is drawn from a vein in your arm or other part of your body using a needle. It also can be drawn using a finger prick.
  • The person who draws your blood might tie a band around the upper part of your arm or ask you to make a fist. Doing this can make the veins in your arm stick out more, which makes it easier to insert the needle.
  • The needle that goes into your vein is attached to a small test tube. The person who draws your blood removes the tube when it's full, and the tube seals on its own. The needle is then removed from your vein. If you're getting a few blood tests, more than one test tube may be attached to the needle before it's withdrawn.
  • Some people get nervous about blood tests because they're afraid of needles. Others may not want to see blood leaving their bodies. If you're nervous or scared, it can help to look away or talk to someone to distract yourself. You might feel a slight sting when the needle goes in or comes out.

What To Expect After Blood Tests

  • Once the needle is withdrawn, you'll be asked to apply gentle pressure with a piece of gauze or bandage to the place where the needle was inserted. This helps stop bleeding. It also helps prevent swelling and bruising.
  • Most of the time, you can remove the pressure after a minute or two. You may want to keep a bandage on for a few hours.
  • Usually, you don't need to do anything else after a blood test. Results can take anywhere from a few minutes to a few weeks to come back. Your doctor should get the results. It's important that you follow up with your doctor to discuss your test results.

 

Additional Resources and Articles

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