Health fair lab results explained
Dr. Laurie Marbas
Annual fasting labs can be an important part of preventive medicine, especially as we get older or have certain risk factors such as obesity, history of smoking or alcohol use, family history of heart disease, high cholesterol or diabetes. Fortunately, we have an opportunity to have affordable labs drawn at the 9Health Fair this Saturday, April 13, from 7-11 a.m. at Grand River Health in Rifle.
Have you ever wondered what all those numbers mean when you get your labs back? Often there are results that are out of the normal range but you have to wait for your doctor to explain them, which can be stressful and frustrating. Here is a quick guide on what to look for and discuss with your health care provider.
A CBC is a complete blood count that lists white blood cells, red blood cells and platelets and specifics of each group, such as the type and size of the cells. White blood cells (WBC) are responsible for fighting infections and can be elevated in other conditions, which cause inflammation as well. Red blood cells (RBC) carry oxygen to different parts of the body and when they are low you have a anemia. There are different types of anemia, but all should be addressed with your doctor.
RBCs can also be elevated if your body needs more oxygen, such as living at a high elevation or if you have obstructive sleep apnea. If you happen to snore or wake up tired in the mornings with high RBCs, you need to speak to your doctor about being tested for obstructive sleep apnea. That could not only change the quality of your life but save your life as well.
Platelets are a part of the clotting system and when they are low you may be at an increased bleeding risk or may indicate a problem with your spleen. Higher than normal platelets could also be due to inflammation or drugs.
A CMP is a complete metabolic panel and has information about the kidneys, electrolytes, liver function, blood sugar and hydration status. A few important results to make note of is the creatinine level which, when high, indicates renal stress, such as kidney failure. AST, ALT and alkaline phosphatase reveal liver health.
High liver function test results can refer to hepatitis or inflammation of the liver. This could be due to infection, drugs like acetaminophen, alcohol abuse, fatty liver, liver failure, cirrhosis and many other entities. It is very important to discuss these with your physician.
Potassium, sodium and chloride are electrolytes that may be slightly out of normal for some individuals without concern. However, if dramatically out of range, these could be life threatening. Low potassium can cause muscle cramps or heart arrhythmia and can be caused by drugs, dehydration, diarrhea, or kidney disease. Low sodium can result from hypothyroidism, heart failure, water intoxication (drinking too much water too quickly dilutes the sodium in the blood) and other diseases.
A high fasting blood sugar could indicate diabetes or prediabetes. Glucose levels greater than 100 but less than 126 are considered a risk factor for developing diabetes and lifestyle modifications should be taken. When glucose is greater than 126 on two separate tests, diabetes is diagnosed and medications will be in order.
Finally, the cholesterol panel will entail total cholesterol, triglycerides (fats in the blood), good cholesterol (HDL) and bad cholesterol (LDL).
Total cholesterol should be under 200 ideally, and to greatly decrease risks of heart disease it should be less than 150. Triglycerides under 150 are normal, but when elevated, increases the risk of coronary artery disease.
HDL should be greater than 40 in men and higher than 50 in women to optimize health benefits.
LDL ideally should be less than 100 (some suggest 70) in diabetics and those with heart disease. Otherwise, under 160 is recommended but will depend on your particular risk factors.
You should know that your body produces all the cholesterol that it needs to function and it is not needed in the diet. Cholesterol is found in animal products such as meats and dairy and should be kept to a minimum.
Grand River Health hopes you will take advantage of this great program and find out if there are any concerns that should be addressed by your health care provider. Other preventive interventions such as mammograms, colonoscopies, PSA screenings and pap smears should also be discussed with your doctor to determine what is right for you.
Dr. Laurie Marbas is a family physician at Grand River Hospital and Medical Center in Rifle.
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