For many of us, an annual physical includes a routine blood test. While the process of getting blood drawn is relatively straightforward, it can feel like you need a medical degree to understand the results that come back to you from the lab. We are here to help! Below are two of the most common blood test panels (panel just means group of tests) that your physician may order and what "labs" or biomarkers are included in that panel.
Labs included in a comprehensive metabolic panel
“Metabolic” refers to all of the ways your body uses and stores energy. Normally, you have to fast for at least 8 hours before getting a metabolic panel panel, which includes:
Glucose: also referred to as blood sugar. A fasting glucose test measures how well the body is regulating blood sugar and it can help determine diabetes status. Normal range is 70 to 99 mg/dL for most adults, although values can vary with age.
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Electrolytes: indicates if there is an acid-base imbalance in your body. Electrolyte levels are affected by how much is taken in through the diet, the amount of water in a person’s body, and the amount of electrolytes excreted by the kidneys.
- Sodium: Irregularities in sodium levels may indicate dehydration, excessive intake of salt or certain medications, or problems with the liver or kidneys. Normal range of blood sodium is 135 to 145 millimoles/liter (mmol/L).
- Chloride: A high salt/sodium diet and certain medications can impact your chloride levels. Irregular chloride can also be an indicator of certain diseases, like kidney disorders. Healthy range: 98 to 106 mmol/L.
- Potassium: This mineral plays an important role in regulating your heartbeat, muscle function, and nerve impulses. Low potassium is usually associated with dehydration or taking diuretics. Normal range: 3.7 to 5.2 mmol/L.
Kidney function measures
Creatine: Excessive creatine in the blood can be an indication that your kidneys are not functioning properly in removing waste from the blood. Normal creatine levels are around 0.7 to 0.3 mg/dL for men and 0.6 to 1.1 mg/dL for women.
Total Protein: Abnormal blood protein levels can be an indication of kidney or liver abnormalities. Normal blood protein levels are between 6.0 and 8.3 gm/dL.
Blood Urea Nitrogen (BUN): Urea nitrogen is found in the blood when protein is broken down. High levels of BUN may indicate kidney disease, dehydration, or urinary track obstruction. Normal levels are generally between 6 and 20 mg/dL.
Liver function measures
Total bilirubin: Bilirubin is a yellowish pigment found in bile from liver. It’s yellow coloring is what causes jaundice. While some bilirubin in the blood is normal, high levels of bilirubin can indicate liver disease.Normal levels are between 0.2 and 1.9 mg/dL.
Liver Enzymes. High blood levels of any of these enzymes could be an indication that your liver is not functioning properly:
- AST (aspartate aminotransferase) — Normal range: 10 to 34 IU/L
- ALP (alkaline phosphatase) — Normal range: 44 to 47 IU/L
- ALT (alanine aminotransferase) — Normal range: 8 to 37 IU/L
Labs included in a complete blood count test (CBC)
The CBC is a simple blood test from which the lab can give a quick estimate of the types of cells and parts of cells in your blood:
Red blood cells (RBCs): RBCs help carry oxygen throughout the body. A normal range of RBC is between 4.2 and 5.9 million cells per cubic millimeter, or ccm.
White blood cells (WBCs): WBCs help you fight infections, so a high WBC count could be an indication that you have an infection or some type of inflammation. A normal WBC range is between 4,300 and 10,800 cmm.
Hgb (Hemoglobin): Hemoglobin is a protein found on red blood cells that is responsible for transporting oxygen. Abnormal hemoglobin levels could be a sign of anemia or another blood disorder. Hgb, like Hct, differs from men to women and is measured in grams per deciliter or g/dl. Normal range for Hgb is 13 to 18 g/dL for men and 12 to 16 g/dL for women.
Hct (Hematocrit) test: Hematocrit is a blood test that measures the percentage of the volume of whole blood that is made up of red blood cells. Hct is oftentimes used to diagnose forms of anemia and other conditions. Hematocrit test values will vary from men to women(men generally have higher values) and also between laboratories. Generally speaking, Hct results will range between 36% and 52%.
Ferritin: A ferritin test indirectly measures the amount of iron in your blood. Anemia and digestive problems are the two main causes of low iron. Normal ferritin levels for men are between 12 and 300 ng/mL; and for women, they are between 12 and 150 ng/mL.
Note: Normal lab value ranges for all tests may vary slightly among different laboratories, and by patient age and sex. The values described in this article represent those provided by Medline Plus, a service of the U.S. Libraries of Medicine and the National Institutes for Health.
Get help interpreting your blood test results
To save yourself the headache of trying to interpret your blood test results, try InsideTracker’s Do-It-Yourself (DIY) option. Just enter the results of any recent blood test(s) into our online program, and we’ll take it from there. We go further than your doctor’s office, which typically only tells you if your biomarkers are “normal.”
We can tell you if your biomarkers are in the optimal ranges, based on your age, gender, ethnicity, athletic activity, and other factors. If your blood levels are less than optimal, we’ll offer nutrition and health advice to help you improve your biomarkers, your wellness, and even your athletic performance.
Haven’t had any blood work done recently? No problem. Let InsideTracker help. And the labs listed here aren't the only ones included in an InsideTracker plan.
Learn more about your other biomarkers by downloading this guide.
Disclaimer: The information provided by this article is for informational purposes only and should not be used to diagnosis or treat any medical condition. A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions.