The best defense is a good offense, and when it comes to getting blood work done, nothing couldn’t be more true. Your health is the most important asset that you have, and many of us assume that if we look and feel okay, that our health is also okay. However, this may not be so, and that is why it is a good idea to get blood work done, both annually and as requested by your healthcare practitioner, to address any potential health problems before they become more serious.
What you see isn’t always what you get
Some diseases do not show up as symptoms you can recognize. It may also be hard to know how your dietary and exercise habits are affecting your health. This is where blood work can help reveal what is really going on inside of your body, and enable your healthcare practitioner to also check your levels of electrolytes (like sodium, potassium, magnesium, and phosphorus), micronutrients, vitamins, and minerals.
Having regular blood work can also help save you time and money, because many health conditions can be reversed with lifestyle changes and medication… before they become serious issues that require more aggressive—and expensive—treatment.
Here are some of the most common blood tests performed, and why they are important:
Complete blood count (CBC)—Evaluates overall health and detects a range of disorders such as infection, anemia, and leukemia. Also measures red blood cells that carry oxygen to the cells, white blood cells that fight infection, and platelets that help with blood clotting.
Blood glucose (sugar)—Measures glucose (sugar) levels in the blood. Because glucose is the main form of energy used by the body, its levels can show signs of diabetes (high levels).
Inflammation—The two main tests that measure inflammation: C-reactive protein (CRP) is made in the liver as a response to inflammation, and high levels can occur with inflammatory conditions; Erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR), also called a sed rate test, measures inflammation and can pinpoint specific causes, as well as monitor an inflammatory condition.
Cholesterol—Also known as a lipid panel, the cholesterol test measures “good” and “bad” cholesterol, as well as a type of fat known as triglycerides. Having too much “bad” cholesterol can indicate risk of heart attack, stroke, and atherosclerosis.
Thyroid function—There are two main tests for thyroid function that show how well the thyroid gland is working (the thyroid regulates many body processes such as metabolism, generation of energy, and mood). These tests include: Thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) shows if your thyroid is over- or underactive, as well as T4 (the main form of thyroid hormone) that can indicate disease.
Immunology—Checks the amount of antibodies called immunoglobulins in the body. Immunoglobulin testing can reveal if there is a problem with the immune system.
Your healthcare practitioner will likely recommend that you have these tests annually, or on an as-needed basis if you have symptoms. Just as the saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!