Know Your Numbers, Euraine Brooks

Do you feel intimidated by doctors and acronyms from blood test results.  In this article, I’m going to share my approach with you.

During my annual visit, laboratory work is normally required.  Did you know that with your primary care physician, you can request your blood work to be performed prior to the visit and have a copy of the results sent to you?  By having your blood work completed prior to your annual visit, this gives you an opportunity to review your numbers and be ready to discuss them with your physician during that initial visit.  Of course the lab must have written orders from your doctor to perform the tests.  Your physician may give you these forms, or he/she can fax the request directly to the lab prior to your arrival.  This can also eliminate a follow-up visit if all results are normal.

Do you know the names of the routine lab tests? I checked with a nurse at Malcolm Grow Medical Center at Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland, to verify tests typically ordered for a routine physical.  The following are the tests and a brief explanation of each (go to each website to gather additional information):

Complete Blood Count (CBC) — checks disorders such as anemia, infection and other diseases.  Pay close attention to these acronyms on the printout and ask the doctor to explain.  Acronyms include: WBC (white blood cells), RBC (red blood cells), HGB (hemoglobin), HCT (hematocrit), etc. http://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/complete-blood-count-cbc

Comprehensive Metabolic Panel (CMP)  —  also known as chemistry panel, relates to the current status of your kidneys (creatine), liver (AST/ALT), electrolyte, blood sugar (glucose) and blood proteins.  http://www.labtestsonline.org/understanding/analytes/cbc/test.html

Lipid Panel —  measures all three cholesterol levels to calculate your total cholesterol score: triglycerides level – type of fat that is found in the blood;  HDL – the “good” cholesterol; LDL – the “lousy” cholesterol.  Lipid disorders, such as high cholesterol, may lead to life-threatening illnesses, such as coronary artery disease, heart attack, and stroke.   http:/www.americanheart.org/presenter.jhtml?identifier=4500

Whenever you get your blood pressure checked, ask the physician to explain the systolic (top number) and diastolic (bottom number) readings.  These readings are written like a fraction. Pay close attention to the bottom number because it measures your resting heart rate. If that number is elevated, it should raise a red flag.  http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/blood-pressure/HI00043

Prediabetic or diabetic — know your numbers.  Prediabetics have glucose levels of 100-125 mg/dl after an overnight or 8-hour fast. The levels are higher than normal but not high enough yet to be diagnosed as diabetic.  Diabetes is diagnosed when the blood glucose is 126 mg/dl or above.  http://diabetes.webmd.com/guide/what-is-prediabetes-or-borderline-diabetes

In summary, please do not be passive when meeting with your doctor.  My approach this year is to have formulated questions, get a general understanding of the tests ordered and know my numbers in order to engage the doctor with meaningful conversations about me.

Always check with your doctor or health care practitioner to clarify anything you have read or have been told.

 

 

 

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