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Full body check-up: What blood tests should I get done? How to understand lab results for blood?

The Indian Express logo The Indian Express 25-08-2022 Dr Suranjit Chatterjee
© Provided by The Indian Express

A blood test is a proactive approach to detect any abnormal changes in the body by analysing various components of blood. Regular blood testing is one of the best ways to keep track of your health. It helps in finding medical problems, monitoring the effectiveness of medication or therapy and making informed decisions about your parameters. Even if you are healthy and above the age of 18, you should internalise a routine of periodic blood tests.

Preventive healthcare is the best way to lower your disease burden. Before ordering lab tests, consult a doctor to find out if you are at an increased risk of disease. This can help you determine what types of additional tests you may need. For example, age, medical history, family history of disease, obesity, your drinking and smoking habits, all have an imprint on your blood work.

TYPES OF BLOOD TESTS

Some of the major blood tests usually recommended by doctors are given below. They help you know your health better and improve your decision-making should there be anomalies.

· Complete Blood Count: This gives a quick and complete picture of your blood and bone marrow functioning. It measures several aspects of blood, including the number, variety, percentage and concentration. It helps in determining the quality of major blood cells --- platelets, red blood cells and white blood cells. It is effective in screening different haematological abnormalities such as anaemia, nutritional deficiencies, blood clotting issues, infection and blood cancer.

· Metabolic Panel: This includes measurement of glucose, kidney function test, including blood urea nitrogen (BUN), creatinine, sodium, potassium, calcium and bicarbonate. LFT or liver function test includes albumin, alkaline phosphatase (ALP), alanine aminotransferase (ALT), aspartate aminotransferase (AST) and bilirubin. These help in understanding the functioning of your kidneys and liver.

· Lipid Profile: This is an important test as it maps your cardiovascular and cerebrovascular health. It checks the cholesterol levels such as high-density lipoprotein (HDL), low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and triglycerides. It helps in knowing the status of your heart health and taking necessary measures in cases of abnormalities.

· Thyroid Panel: Also known as Thyroid Function Test, it checks the proper functioning of the thyroid gland and how it produces hormones such as Triiodothyronine (T3), Thyroxine (T4), and Thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH). These hormones regulate heart rate, body temperature, metabolism and help in overall well-being.

· Cancer Marker: In addition to the Complete Blood Count (CBC) that detects any abnormality, other tests are recommended for screening of cancer cells. These include prostate-specific antigen (PSA) for prostate cancer and cancer antigen 125 (CA 125) for ovarian cancer. Other examples include carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA) for colon cancer and alpha-fetoprotein for liver cancer.

· Tests for deficiency of Vitamin B12 and Vitamin D: These tests are helpful in measuring deficiencies of Vitamin B12 and Vitamin D. These vitamins contribute a lot to normal metabolic functioning and healthy bones, so one must monitor their levels.

HOW TO UNDERSTAND YOUR BLOOD REPORT

Results are usually written in numerical values. In some cases, they include indications or markers to let you know how your blood is supporting your body. You can find letters used to indicate a particular condition such as H for high, L for low or acronym WNL for “within normal limits.” In case of difficulty, you can consult the doctor or lab technician to know your reports better.

Most importantly, you should work to maintain and improve your blood health. Based on the results, you can decide the right course of action like dieting habits, exercise and so on. It is important to note that an abnormal numerical value doesn’t always denote a major disease/infection and should be interpreted by a qualified professional, especially in the setting of a clinical scenario.

QUICK TAKEAWAYS

For a good snapshot of your health, you should go for a blood test periodically. The blood tests mentioned above help you identify the strength and weakness of your body. Besides, they also help in understanding the efficacy of medication that you might be taking for any complication. Based on the test results, your doctor can recommend the best way to improve your health to keep problems at bay.

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