10 important blood tests

Data: 2019-12-04

Let’s take a closer look at tests for adults to have done regularly.

1. Complete blood count

A routine complete blood count (CBC) test checks for levels of 10 different components of every major cell in your blood: white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets. Important components measured by this test include red blood cell count, hemoglobin, and hematocrit.
Here’s the typical range of results:


Component

Normal range

red blood cells

men: 4.32–5.72 million cells/mcL; women: 3.90–5.03 million cells/mcL

white blood cells

3,500 to 10,500 cells/mcL

platelets

150,000 to 450,000/mcL

hemoglobin

men: 13.5–17.5 grams/deciliter (g/dL); women:12.0–15.5 g/dL

hematocrit

men: 38.8–50.0 percent; women: 34.9–44.5 percent

Abnormal levels of these components may indicate:

  • nutritional deficiencies, such as vitamin B-6 or B-12
  • iron deficiency
  • bone marrow issues
  • tissue inflammation
  • infection
  • heart conditions
  • cancer

Based on your results, your doctor will order follow-up tests to confirm abnormal levels and a possible diagnosis.

2. Basic metabolic panel

A basic metabolic panel (BMP) checks for levels of certain compounds in the blood, such as:

  • electrolytes
  • calcium
  • glucose
  • sodium
  • potassium
  • carbon dioxide
  • chloride
  • blood urea nitrogen (BUN)
  • creatinine

This test requires you to fast for at least eight hours before your blood is drawn.
See our chart for normal results.
Abnormal results may indicate kidney disease, diabetes, or hormone imbalances. Your doctor will perform follow-up tests to diagnose any of these conditions.

3. Complete metabolic panel

A complete metabolic panel (CMP) includes all the measurements of a BMP as well as additional proteins and substances related to liver function:

  • albumin
  • total protein
  • alkaline phosphatase (ALP)
  • alanine aminotransferase (ALT)
  • aspartate aminotransferase (AST)
  • bilirubin

The same conclusions can be drawn from a CMP as from a BMP for the same substances that a BMP covers. Other abnormal levels can also indicate underlying conditions, such as:

 

High levels

Low levels

ALP

• bile duct blockage
• cirrhosis
• gallbladder inflammation
• gallstones
• hepatitis
• Paget’s disease

• bone metabolism disorders
• heart surgery
• malnourish
• mentzinc deficiency

ALT

• cirrhosis
• hepatitis
• liver cancer
• liver damage

considered normal

AST

• cirrhosis
• heart conditions
• hepatitis
• mononucleosis 
• (mono)pancreatitis

considered normal

Bilirubin

• abnormal red blood cell destruction (hemolysis)
• adverse medication reactions
• bile duct blockage
• Gilbert’s syndrome
• hepatitis

not a concern

4. Lipid panel

This test checks levels of two types of cholesterolTrusted Source:

  • high-density lipoprotein (HDL), or “good” cholesterol
  • low-density lipoprotein (LDL), or “bad” cholesterol

HDL is “good” because it removes harmful substances from your blood and helps the liver break them down into waste. LDL is “bad” because it can cause plaque to develop in your arteries, increasing your risk of heart disease.
You need to fast for at least 8 hours before this test.
Here are the ranges for each type:

 

High

Low

HDL

> 60 mg/dL

men: < 40 mg/dL; women: < 50 mg/dL

LDL

> 160 mg/dL

< 100 mg/dL

Normal levels can also vary by age.

5. Thyroid panel

A thyroid panel, or thyroid function test, checks how well your thyroid is producing and reacting to certain hormones, such as:

  • Triiodothyronine (T3). Along with T4, this regulates your heart rate and body temperature.
  • T3 resin uptake (RU). This measures how well a hormone called thyroxin-binding globulin is binding.
  • Thyroxine (T4). Along with T3, this regulates your metabolism and how you grow.
  • Thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH). This helps regulate the levels of hormones your thyroid releases.

Your thyroid, a tiny gland in your neck, helps regulate bodily functions like your mood, energy level, and overall metabolism.
Here are normal results:

  • T3:100–200 nanograms per deciliter of blood (ng/dL)
  • T3RU:depends on T3 levels (will be low if T3 levels are high, and vice versa)
  • T4: 5.0–12.0 micrograms per deciliter (μg/dL)
  • TSH:0.4–4.0 milli-international units per liter of blood (mIU/L)

Abnormal levels of these hormones can indicate numerous conditions, such as low protein levels, thyroid growth disorders, and abnormal levels of testosterone or estrogen.

6. Enzyme markers

Enzymes are proteins that help your body accomplish certain chemical processes, such as breaking down food and clotting blood. They’re used throughout your body for many vital functions. Abnormal enzyme levels can indicate many different conditions.
Common enzymes tested include:

  • Creatine phosphokinase (CPK-1). This is found in your lungs and brain. High levels can indicate brain injuries or cancer.
  • CPK-2 (CK-MB). These enzymes are found in your heart. They often increase in your blood after a heart attack or other heart injury.
  • CPK-3. These enzymes are also found in your heart. They often result from muscle inflammation, injury, or intense exercise.
  • Troponin. This is a heart enzyme that can leak into your blood and results from heart injury.

Here are the normal ranges for the enzyme listed above:

  • CPK-1:about 200 units per liter (U/L)
  • CPK-2:5–25 international units per liter (IU/L)
  • CPK-3:about 200 U/L
  • troponin:< 0.02 ng/mL

7. Sexually transmitted disease tests

Many sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) can be diagnosed using a blood sample. These tests are often combined with urine samples or swabs of infected tissue for more accurate diagnoses.
The following STDs can be diagnosed with blood tests:

  • chlamydia
  • gonorrhea
  • herpes
  • HIV
  • syphilis

Blood tests aren’t always accurate right after contracting an infection. For an HIV infection, for example, you may need to wait at least a monthbefore a blood test can detect the virus.

8. Coagulation panel

Coagulation tests measure how well your blood clots and how long it takes for your blood to clot. Examples include the prothrombin time (PT) test and fibrinogen activity test.
Clotting is a crucial process that helps your stop bleeding after a cut or wound. But a clot in a vein or artery can be deadly, blocking blood flow to your brain, heart, or lungs and causing heart attack or strokes.
Coagulation test results vary based on your health and any underlying conditions that may affect clotting.
Results from this test can be used to diagnose:

  • acute myeloid leukemia
  • excessive bleeding (hemophilia)
  • thrombosis
  • liver conditions
  • vitamin K deficiency

9. DHEA-sulfate serum test

The dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) hormone comes from your adrenal glands. This test measures whether it’s too high or too low.
In men, DHEA helps develop traits like body hair growth, so low levels are considered abnormal. In women, high levels can cause typically male traits, like excess body hair, to develop, so low levels are normal.
Low levels in men are called DHEA deficiency, which can be caused by:

  • type 2 diabetes
  • kidney disease
  • anorexia nervosa
  • AIDS

High levels in men or women can result from:

  • cancer or tumor in adrenal glands
  • early onset of puberty from congenital adrenal hyperplasia
  • abnormal genital development
  • polycystic ovary syndrome (in women)

10. C-reactive protein test

C-reactive protein (CRP) is made by your liver when tissues in your body are inflamed. High CRP levels indicate inflammation from a variety of causes, including:

  • artery inflammation
  • infection
  • inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
  • heart disease
  • rheumatoid arthritis
  • lupus
  • cancer

The higher the level in your results, the higher your risk of heart disease:

  • < 1 mg/L: low risk
  • 1–2.9 mg/L: intermediate risk
  • > 3 mg/L: high risk
  • > 10 mg/L: extremely high risk, and further testing should be done to diagnose high levels of inflammation in your body

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