Routine blood testing reveals important information about your health, from your level of dehydration to your risk of having a heart attack or stroke. However, your annual exam doesn’t include all the available types of blood tests.
Talk with your doctor about the following blood tests to ensure a comprehensive look at your health status. He or she may order further testing or treatment based on the conversation.
1. Lipid Panel
In the United States, heart disease causes 1 in 4 deaths each year. While heart disease has multiple risk factors, such as tobacco use, age, and diabetes, one of the primary culprits is a high level of fats or lipids in the blood. A lipid panel shows your level of triglycerides, bad LDL cholesterol, and good HDL cholesterol.
High lipid levels (200+ mg/dL for triglycerides and 160+ mg/dL for LDL) indicate a heightened risk for stroke or heart attack, according to the University of Michigan Health Service. Your doctor can review treatment options to lower your risk, including medication, diet, exercise, and lifestyle changes.
2. Complete Blood Count
A complete blood count (CBC) checks your red and white blood cells, hemoglobin, platelets, and hematocrit. Abnormalities may indicate anemia, an infection, vitamin deficiencies, autoimmune disorders, cancer, heart disease, or other underlying conditions.
3. Hemoglobin A1c
Extra glucose from high blood sugar attaches to the hemoglobin protein in your red blood cells. The hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) test measures this concentration of glucose from the previous 8 to 12 weeks.
An HbA1c reading of 5.7 percent or higher shows that your blood sugar was higher than normal over the last couple of months. A score up to 6.4 percent indicates a higher risk of developing diabetes, while a score of 6.5 percent or more warrants a diabetes diagnosis, according to WebMD.
Abnormal blood sugar results may indicate a need to change your diet or exercise habits while alerting your doctor to possible health complications.
4. Comprehensive Metabolic Panel
A comprehensive metabolic panel (CMP) checks a number of levels, including:
- Blood sugar
- Electrolytes (such as potassium, calcium, chloride, and sodium)
- The byproducts of your kidneys (creatinine and urea nitrogen)
- Liver enzymes and byproducts (such as ALP, ALT, AST, and bilirubin)
- Proteins (albumin)
- Carbon dioxide.
Although the CMP measures glucose, it doesn’t replace the HbA1c test, because the CMP shows only a single current reading. Abnormal readings on a CMP may indicate kidney or liver dysfunction and other imbalances.
5. C-Reactive Protein
A C-reactive protein (CRP) test measures the amount of CRP coming from your liver. CRP increases from internal inflammation, so a high reading could point to an inflammatory disease, such as lupus. The high-sensitivity version of the test, an hs-CRP, may be used to screen people for an increased risk of heart attack.
6. Vitamin D
Vitamin D is a necessary nutrient found in food and a hormone created in response to sunlight. Although you consume or create your own vitamin D from natural sources, deficiencies can occur among certain segments of the population, including people in northern climates, the elderly, and patients with osteoporosis or gastrointestinal disorders, according to Yale University.
A blood test can check your level, ensuring you have enough vitamin D for calcium absorption and the health of your nervous system and immune system.
Ferritin levels show your stored level of iron, which can cause a range of vague, unpleasant symptoms when outside of the normal range. Low iron is one form of anemia that can lead to more serious health problems, while high iron is correlated with liver disease. Abnormal levels can cause low energy, joint pain, dizziness, and restless legs.
8. Vitamin B12
Up to 15 percent of the population is deficient in vitamin B12, which is necessary for neurological function, red blood cells, and the production of DNA. Deficiency symptoms include fatigue, depression, numbness or tingling, and low appetite. Your doctor can treat a B12 deficiency with supplements or injections.
9. Thyroid-Stimulating Hormone (TSH)
About 20 million people in the U.S. have a thyroid disorder, and more than half of them are not diagnosed. A thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) test will inform you of any thyroid dysfunction.
With an overactive or underactive thyroid, you will not perform or feel your best, as symptoms may include anxiety, sleep disturbances, weight changes, and tremors. Your doctor can treat these conditions with medication.
10. Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI) Screening
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends STD testing for all sexually active persons, including at least one HIV blood test for people 13 to 64 years old. Blood tests can detect hepatitis, syphilis, and the herpes virus. Men and women born between 1945 and 1965 are strongly encouraged to screen for hepatitis C.