Regular blood tests are a crucial aspect of preventive healthcare. Your primary care physician (PCP), such as your family medicine or internal medicine (internist) doctor, will often recommend getting them done annually. "Blood tests provide valuable insights into your overall health and can help identify any underlying health issues before they become severe," says Raul C. Ramirez, MD, Internal Medicine at ARC Kyle Plum Creek. "By analyzing the results, your doctor can detect potential diseases, monitor chronic conditions, and assess the effectiveness of treatments."
Blood work is often included as part of a regular checkup. Blood tests are also used to:
- Help diagnose certain diseases and conditions
- Monitor a chronic disease or condition, such as diabetes or high cholesterol
- Find out if treatment for a disease is working
- Check how well your organs are working
- Help diagnose bleeding or clotting disorders
- Find out if your immune system is having trouble fighting infections
What are the most common blood tests?
- Complete blood count (CBC): One of the most common tests performed, it evaluates the three main types of blood cells: red blood cells (RBCs), white blood cells (WBCs), and platelets. Results can help detect anemia, infection, and various blood disorders.
- Basic metabolic panel (BMP): Group of tests that assess kidney function, blood glucose levels, and electrolyte balance. It can help diagnose conditions like diabetes and kidney disease.
- Comprehensive metabolic panel (CMP): Includes 14 individual tests — the same eight tests as a BMP, plus six more tests that measure certain proteins and liver enzymes in your blood.
- Liver enzyme test: Measures the levels of liver enzymes, such as alanine transaminase (ALT) and aspartate transaminase (AST). Elevated levels may indicate liver damage or disease.
- Blood enzyme tests: These tests are used to find out if you've had a heart attack and/or if your heart muscle is damaged.
- Blood tests to check for heart disease. These include cholesterol tests and a triglyceride test.
- Blood clotting tests, also known as a coagulation panel. These tests can show if you have a disorder that causes too much bleeding or clotting.
What do acronyms on a blood test result mean?
Blood work reports often come with a range of acronyms, which can be confusing for patients. Here are some common acronyms and their meanings:
- RBC: Red blood cells
- WBC: White blood cells
- Hb or Hgb: Hemoglobin (the protein that carries oxygen in RBCs)
- Hct: Hematocrit (the proportion of RBCs in the blood)
- MCV: Mean corpuscular volume (average size of RBCs)
- MCH: Mean corpuscular hemoglobin (average amount of hemoglobin in RBCs)
- MCHC: Mean corpuscular hemoglobin concentration (average concentration of hemoglobin in RBCs)
- RDW: Red cell distribution width (variation in RBC size)
- Platelet count: Number of blood platelets
- BUN: Blood urea nitrogen (indicator of kidney function)
How long does it take for blood test results?
The turnaround time for blood test results can vary depending on the complexity of the tests and the laboratory's workload. In many cases, simple tests like a CBC or BMP may be processed within a few hours to a day. However, more specialized tests may take a few days or even weeks to return results.
Should you be worried about an abnormal blood test?
"If your blood test results come back with abnormalities, it's natural to feel concerned," says Dr. Ramirez. "However, an abnormal result doesn't necessarily mean you have a serious health issue. In many cases, slight variations can be caused by factors like diet, stress, or minor infections." Your doctor will interpret these results, explain the findings, discuss follow-up steps, and recommend additional testing if needed.
Make an appointment today
Timely detection and intervention can lead to successful health management, so if you haven't seen your doctor lately, make an appointment today. You can make an appointment online with one of our PCPs through ARC MyChart or by calling an ARC clinic near you.
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- Simply go to ARC Family Medicine or ARC Internal Medicine and click the BOOK NOW
- Answer a few questions, then choose the ESTABLISH PATIENT CARE