Young, troubled woman using laptop at home while reading blood test results.

How to Read Blood Test Results

Young, troubled woman using laptop at home while reading blood test results.

When it comes to your health and wellness, there are a variety of tests that doctors perform to determine your health status. A blood test also referred to as a blood panel or a complete blood count (CBC) test, is valuable for checking many things. This includes the health of your vital organs, such as the heart, and the presence of dangerous genetic conditions. 

Additionally, a CBC test is one of the best ways to determine your overall health and wellness. A good result on your blood test means that you’re in good physical condition, but anomalies could indicate problems. However, CBC tests are fairly complicated to understand, and a misinterpretation could be just as dangerous as a bad result on the blood test. 

Therefore, if you’re considering taking a blood test and want to know how to interpret the results, you’ve come to the right place. While your doctor will most likely explain the results, it’s good to have a basic understanding of blood tests going into your examination. This article will also discuss preparing for your blood test so you don’t receive inconclusive results.

Understanding Blood Test Results

Complete blood count tests, the most common type of blood test, are confusing and tricky. They measure many different aspects of your blood, including your white blood cell count, red blood cell count, platelets, hemoglobin, hematocrit, and more. Even though you’ll get a full explanation from the doctor that administers the test, having a previous understanding of blood tests will help you fully understand the results.

Reference Ranges

The first thing you need to understand about blood tests is that they’re based on reference ranges. Reference ranges refer to the normal range for most people who get tested. For instance, if the reference range for a specific section of the test is 70 – 90, your result should fall within that range.

However, it’s important to understand that everyone’s bodies are different, and just because you didn’t score within the “normal range” doesn’t mean you have a problem. Therefore, reference ranges are typically used as a rough guide rather than the rule of law when determining your health status.

Abnormal Results

Young black female doctor presenting results of blood test results. The second thing you need to understand about blood tests is what it means when you receive abnormal results. An abnormal result simply means that your test results were slightly higher or lower than the “normal” reference range.

While this may seem concerning, it isn’t always something to worry about. As with blood pressure and heart rate, everyone’s body is different, which means that a perfectly healthy person can test outside of the normal reference range. It’s also possible for someone who’s unhealthy to test within the normal reference range. These types of tests are known as false positives or false negatives.

  • False positives 

A false positive means that your blood test reveals a disease or condition you don’t have.

  • False negatives 

A false negative means that your blood test reveals you don’t have any diseases or conditions when you do.

Because of the dangers of false positives and negatives, you should have your test interpreted by a medical professional. They will know whether or not you need additional tests.

Reasons for Abnormal Results

While an abnormal result on your blood test may be indeed caused for concern, there are other possible reasons for an abnormal result, including the following.

  • There’s inflammation inside your body that’s causing the abnormal result.
  • You ate or drank something that altered the result.
  • You’re stressed out
  • You’re currently sick or ill
  • Drugs, medicine, or alcohol has altered the blood test result

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Tips for Preparing for a Blood Test

A nurse performing a blood draw on a patient.If you want to prevent an inconclusive reading or abnormal result on your blood test, here are a few tips to follow.

Fasting Requirements

One of the most common reasons for abnormal or inconclusive results on blood tests is that people didn’t follow the fasting requirements. It’s important to fast for a minimum of 8 to 12 hours before your blood test; some doctors will recommend up to 24 hours. You should also avoid drinking anything besides water while you’re fasting.

Medications and Supplements

In the same way that food and drink can result in abnormal or inconclusive results on your blood test, so can medications and supplements. However, this isn’t always the case, and you should check with the doctor providing the test to find out if any supplements or medications you’re taking could impede the results.

Conclusion 

Receiving an abnormal result on your blood work can be concerning and inconvenient. Either something is potentially wrong with you, or your blood test got messed up, and you’ll need to take a second one. Therefore, following the tips and tricks above in the days leading up to your blood test is important.

Having your blood test administered, interpreted, and explained by a medical professional is also important. A professional can determine if abnormal results are cause for concern and if further testing is necessary. They will also ensure that the test is administered properly and that you know exactly what they mean.

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Our team will ensure that samples are safely delivered to our lab. Once your results are in, we can help you interpret them and take the next steps toward a healthier you. Drip Hydration is a discreet and professional healthcare service centered on you. Contact us right away!

Lab Testing - Frequently Asked Questions

Why is it important to do lab tests occasionally?

It is important to do lab tests occasionally because they can provide valuable information about an individual's health and help to identify potential health issues early on. Lab tests can measure a wide range of factors, including blood count, cholesterol levels, liver and kidney function, and hormone levels, and can provide insight into an individual's overall health and wellness. Additionally, lab tests can help to diagnose and monitor the progression of certain medical conditions, such as diabetes and heart disease, and can help to identify any potential health risks or concerns. By doing lab tests occasionally, individuals can take proactive steps to maintain their health and wellbeing and reduce the risk of potential health problems in the future.

How accurate are lab tests?

Overall, lab tests are generally considered to be accurate and reliable, but there is always a chance of error and it is important to consult with a healthcare professional to interpret the results.

How is a blood sample collected for lab testing?

A blood sample for lab testing is typically collected through a process called venipuncture, which involves inserting a small needle into a vein to draw blood. This is usually done on the inside of the elbow or the back of the hand.

What does a routine blood test cover?

A routine blood test is used to check for a range of things, including your blood count and the levels of certain chemicals and substances in your blood. Blood tests can also be used to check how well certain organs, such as your liver and kidneys, are functioning.

What does routine lab work cover?

Routine lab work typically includes a blood test, which is used to check for a range of things, including your blood count and the levels of certain chemicals and substances in your blood. In addition to a blood test, routine lab work may also include other tests, such as urine and stool tests, which can help diagnose and monitor conditions related to the kidneys, liver, and digestive system. 

Can a blood test identify cancer?

In some cases, cancer can be detected with a blood test. However, not all cancers can be detected with a blood test, and some blood tests can produce false-positive or false-negative results. 

Can a blood test find other particular issues like problems with the heart, liver, or kidneys?

Yes, a blood test can sometimes be used to detect heart, liver, and kidney problems. Blood tests can also be used to measure the levels of certain substances in your blood, such as cholesterol and glucose, which can help diagnose and monitor conditions such as heart disease and diabetes. In addition, a blood test can check your blood count, which can provide information about the health of your red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. However, it is important to note that a blood test is not always able to detect heart, liver, and kidney problems, and other tests, such as imaging scans or biopsies, may be needed to confirm a diagnosis.

What distinguishes a diagnostic test from a screening test?

A screening test is a type of test that is used to identify people who may be at increased risk of a particular condition, such as cancer or heart disease. In contrast, a diagnostic test is a type of test that is used to confirm or rule out a suspected diagnosis. So, the main difference between a screening test and a diagnostic test is the purpose for which the test is being performed.

Why do lab tests occasionally need to be repeated?

One common reason is that the initial test results were inconclusive or unclear, and repeating the test can help provide more accurate results. Lab tests may also be repeated if the initial results were abnormal and more information is needed to diagnose or monitor a condition. In addition, some lab tests are designed to be repeated on a regular basis, such as to monitor the effectiveness of a treatment or to check for any changes in a person's health over time. Finally, lab tests may be repeated if the initial test was performed incorrectly, or if there was some other problem with the sample that was collected.

Does having normal lab test results indicate I shouldn't worry about anything?

Having normal lab test results does not necessarily mean that you have nothing to worry about. Additionally, lab tests are not always able to detect all health conditions, and some conditions may not produce abnormal test results until they have progressed to a more advanced stage. 

What should I do after I have my lab test results?

After you have your lab test results, it is always best to discuss them with your healthcare provider. Your healthcare provider will be able to interpret the results in the context of your overall health and medical history, and they will be able to recommend any necessary follow-up tests or treatments.

What is the cost of a lab test?

In general, the cost of a lab test can range from a few dollars to several hundred dollars. It is always best to consult with your doctor or healthcare provider to get an accurate estimate of the cost of a lab test.

How is a blood sample for a lab test collected?

A blood sample for a lab test is typically collected through a process called venipuncture. This involves using a needle and syringe to draw blood from a vein, typically in the arm. The skin is cleaned with an antiseptic solution and a tourniquet is placed around the upper arm to help make the veins more visible. The healthcare provider performing the venipuncture will then insert the needle into a vein and collect the required amount of blood. The blood sample is then sent to a laboratory for testing.

Should I do anything to prepare for lab tests?

It is generally a good idea to speak with your doctor or healthcare provider to determine what, if any, preparations are necessary for your lab tests. In general, it is a good idea to follow any instructions provided by your healthcare provider, such as fasting for a certain amount of time before the test or avoiding certain medications. It is also a good idea to bring a list of all medications you are currently taking to your lab appointment.

Why is it necessary to fast before some tests?

Fasting before certain lab tests is often necessary because certain substances in the blood, such as glucose and certain fats, can affect the results of the test. By fasting, you are allowing your body to metabolize these substances, which can provide more accurate test results. Additionally, some tests require that you fast in order to properly prepare your body for the test.

Will a cup of coffee before my lab test mess with the results?

Whether or not you can have a cup of coffee before your test will depend on the specific test that you are undergoing and any instructions provided by your healthcare provider. If you are unsure about whether or not you can have a cup of coffee before your test, it is always best to ask your healthcare provider for advice.

Can my lab test get affected by diet or medications?

Yes, your diet and medications can affect the results of your lab tests. 

What do the lab test results mean?

The specific meaning of your lab test results will depend on the specific test that was performed and the reference range provided by the laboratory. The reference range is the range of values that is considered normal for a healthy person, and it is used to interpret the results of your lab test. If your test results fall within the reference range, it generally means that there is nothing unusual or concerning about your test results. However, if your test results are outside of the reference range, it may indicate a potential health concern that should be discussed with your healthcare provider.

Where are the reference (normal) ranges for lab tests?

The reference ranges for lab tests, also known as normal ranges, are determined by the laboratory that performs the test. These ranges are based on a large number of test results from healthy individuals, and they are used to interpret the results of your lab test. The reference range for each test is typically provided on the laboratory report along with your test results.

What if my lab test result is outside the reference range?

If your lab test result is outside of the reference range, it may indicate a potential health concern that should be discussed with your healthcare provider. Additionally, the reference range is just a general guide, and there may be other factors that can affect your test results.

How can I improve my lab test results?

There are several steps you can take to improve your lab test results. First, it is important to follow any instructions provided by your healthcare provider when preparing for a lab test, such as fasting for a certain amount of time before the test or avoiding certain medications. Additionally, maintaining a healthy lifestyle can help improve your lab test results. This includes eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, and not smoking. If you have a chronic health condition, such as diabetes or high blood pressure, it is important to manage it properly and follow your healthcare provider's recommendations for treatment.

Does having abnormal lab test results indicate that I have a health issue?

Having abnormal lab test results does not necessarily mean that you have a health issue. There are many factors that can affect the accuracy of lab test results, such as your diet, medications, and other medical conditions. Additionally, the reference range used to interpret your test results is just a general guide, and there may be other factors that can affect your test results.