A visit to your primary care provider is likely to include a trip to the lab for bloodwork. Is there really a need to endure the bloodletting jab? Simply put, “yes.”
Your bloodwork reveals important information about your health. Even if you believe you are in good health, bloodwork can identify potential health risks when they are most easily treated and help track changes in your health over time.
“Blood tests can provide valuable information about your overall health and well-being,” says Jonathan Shulman, MSN, APN, FNP-C, a primary care advanced practice nurse with Cooper Care Alliance. “By keeping track of your results over time, you and your doctor will have an easier time noticing changes that may signal a health problem.”
What is baseline bloodwork?
Baseline bloodwork is a term used to describe a set of blood tests that provide a reference point on key health metrics for future comparison. These standard tests are generally ordered when you see a new doctor or have a physical exam.
What tests are included?
Your health care provider may order a variety of blood tests, each of which provides different information about your health. Standard blood tests include:
- Complete blood count (CBC): Measures the levels of different types of cells in your blood, including red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. This information can help to diagnose or rule out a number of conditions, such as anemia, infection, and leukemia.
- Chemistry panel: Measures the levels of different components in your blood, including glucose, electrolytes, lipids, enzymes, and proteins. The results of a chemistry panel can provide information about your liver and kidney function as well as your overall metabolism.
- Lipid panel (cholesterol panel): Measures the levels of cholesterol and triglycerides in your blood. High cholesterol and triglyceride levels can increase your risk of heart disease and stroke.
- Blood Sugar Test: Measures the glucose level in your blood, which helps to diagnose or monitor diabetes.
Your doctor may also request other tests if you are starting a new medication or experiencing new or unusual symptoms. Other blood tests that a doctor might order include an A1C test, which measures blood sugar levels, or a thyroid panel.
“Most people don’t think very much about their thyroid, but the hormones it produces help control many vital functions,” Shulman says. “The thyroid panel measures the levels of different hormones produced by the gland to determine whether it’s functioning properly.”
The A1C test measures blood sugar levels. This helps patients with diabetes monitor how well their condition is controlled. This test is also ordered to check for pre-diabetes, so individuals can take steps to prevent diabetes.
The same routine blood tests are generally recommended for both women and men, however there may be some differences. For example, women may have blood tests related to pregnancy, fertility, and other hormonal changes. They are also more likely to experience thyroid problems and low vitamin D levels. Men are at greater risk for high cholesterol levels, so a physician may order lipid testing earlier in men than for women.
Do the tests ordered change over time?
“As we age, our bodies change in many ways,” Shulman says. “These changes can affect the results of routine blood tests. For example, older adults are more likely to have a higher risk of heart disease, so a lipid panel may be ordered more frequently.”
Other common age-related changes that can affect bloodwork include an increase in triglyceride levels and a decrease in the level of hemoglobin. These shifts can be related to many factors, such as diet, medications, and underlying health conditions.
Some blood tests that are common for older adults include:
- Prothombin time test (PT) and INR are blood clotting tests for people who take blood thinners.
- B-type natriuretic peptide (BNP) test – measures levels of a protein made by your heart and blood vessels. BNP levels are higher than normal when you have heart failure.
- Ferritin tests helps gauge how much iron your body stores. If your ferritin level is low, it may indicate you have an iron deficiency and may be anemic.
- Vitamin levels, including B12 are a collection of tests that can screen for nutrition or absorption issues along with certain types of anemia. The tests also measure Vitamin D, a significant factor in bone health. Lower than normal levels of B12 may cause fatigue, muscle weakness, intestinal problems, numbness, memory loss, anemia, as well as irreversible nerve damage if left untreated.
How often will my doctor order bloodwork?
Most health care providers will recommend certain blood tests annually, but those tests may vary depending on your age, health history, and family history. If you have any concerns about your health or if you are experiencing new or unusual symptoms, you should speak with your doctor to see if you may need bloodwork or other testing.
How can I get my results quickly?
Having your bloodwork ordered by a Cooper provider means getting your results quickly and easily. Cooper patients will receive the majority of their lab results via myCooper, with no need to wait for a phone call or letter from your provider.
The myCooper website (and app) is a secure online tool that connects you to your electronic medical record from the privacy of your home (or phone) at any time, day or night. The user-friendly dashboard allows you to view all of your test results and flags any test results that are out of the normal range so you can follow up with your provider.
What if the tests show something abnormal?
If a test comes back with an abnormal result, your doctor may order additional tests to confirm the results. Depending on the nature of the finding, treatment may be necessary. In some cases, follow-up bloodwork may be all that is needed to monitor your health.
“Routine bloodwork is an integral part of preventive health care,” Shulman says. “So, while rolling up your sleeve for that needlestick may not be something you look forward to, keep in mind that it’s an essential step in maintaining your health.”
Get your bloodwork done at Cooper
If it’s been a year or more since you’ve had routine bloodwork, make an appointment with your primary care provider today.