Interpreting your blood test results can be a complicated business. Many factors need to be taken to account, such as what you ate or drank before the test, any medicines you may have been taking, and even the time of day your sample was collected. When you go to see your doctor with your results, she will help guide you through them, but if you’re still left scratching your head in confusion, don’t worry – we’re here to help!
Interpret Blood Test Results: High Cholesterol Levels
Your doctor will examine your blood test results and may recommend a lipid panel. This tests for things like total cholesterol, triglycerides, LDL (bad) cholesterol, HDL (good) cholesterol, and others. If these numbers are outside of normal limits, you might be at risk for heart disease. According to some studies, up to 75 percent of people who develop heart disease have normal cholesterol levels when they receive their first screening. The term for high cholesterol that doesn’t show up on a test is silent or subclinical hypercholesterolemia.
Read More: Comprehensive Guide To Testing Cholesterol
The normal range for total cholesterol is between 100 and 200 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL). The optimal range is between 160 and 190 mg/dL. Levels above 240 mg/dL are generally associated with heart disease risk but can vary depending on a person’s overall health status. Triglycerides should be less than 150 mg/dL; anything higher than that puts you at risk for heart disease. LDL should be below 130 mg/dL for men and below 100 mg/dL for women; HDL is best at 60 mg/dL or above, but should not be lower than 40mg/dl in those who smoke.
For example, a total cholesterol level of 200 mg/dL is considered borderline high if you’re 60 years old. If you’re 40 years old and have a total cholesterol level of 180 mg/dL, your doctor would consider it high and recommend lifestyle changes to bring it down. A triglyceride level below 150 mg/dL is best for heart health. A healthy ratio of LDL to HDL should be less than 4 to 1.
Read More: Top 10 Foods To Lower Cholesterol
People in the United States Are Making Progress on High Cholesterol
About two-thirds of U.S. adults say they have had their cholesterol checked within the last 5 years.4
Most healthy adults should have their cholesterol checked every 4 to 6 years. Some people, such as people who have heart disease or diabetes or who have a family history of high cholesterol, need to get their cholesterol checked more often.
Interpret Blood Test Results: Blood Test Abbreviations
Blood test results generally use the metric system of measurement and various abbreviations, including:
cmm: cells per cubic millimeter
fL (femtoliter): fraction of one-millionth of a liter
g/dL: grams per deciliter
IU/L: international units per liter
mEq/L: milliequivalent per liter
mg/dL: milligrams per deciliter
mmol/L: millimoles per liter
ng/mL: nanograms per milliliter
pg (picograms): one-trillionth of a gram
umol/L: micromoles per liter
Biomarkers for blood are vast in amount and can vary from lab to lab. However, here are a few common biomarkers for reference.
Red Blood Cell Count (RBC)
Red Cell Distribution Width (RDW)
White Blood Cell Count (WBC)
Mean Corpuscular Volume (MCV)
Mean Hemoglobin Volume (MHV)
High-Density Lipoprotein (HDL)
Low-Density Lipoprotein (LDL)
High-Sensitivity C-reactive Protein (hs-CRP)
Total Cholesterol (TC)
Hemoglobin A1C (A1C)
Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH)
Free T3 (Triiodothyronine)
Free T4 (Thyroxine)
TPOab (Thyroid Peroxidase Antibody)
Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA)
There are many more and in no way is this an exhaustive list.
Liver Function – Interpret Blood Test Results
Traditional testing of liver function relies on serum biomarkers such as alanine aminotransferase (ALT), aspartate aminotransferase (AST), alkaline phosphatase (ALP), glutamyl transpeptidase (GGT), and total bilirubin (TBIL).
Elevated levels of ALT (alanine aminotransferase) and AST (aspartate aminotransferase) are commonly seen in people with liver disease. In fact, levels higher than 40 IU/L for either enzyme are considered abnormal. Elevated levels may indicate an acute (temporary) or chronic (long-term) hepatitis infection, a fatty liver condition known as steatohepatitis, or acute or chronic alcoholic liver disease.
This test may also be performed on people taking drugs that could damage their livers, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen, and other NSAIDs.
To help interpret your blood test results, it’s a good idea to have a basic understanding of how your liver works. This means knowing what these four key tests are designed to measure: The ALT and AST liver function tests check for an enzyme found in red blood cells called transaminases. It also checks for bilirubin, which is a byproduct of dead red blood cells that must be removed from your body by your liver.
These enzymes can become elevated if there’s damage or disease in your liver – but not always! Your body will naturally produce higher levels of both enzymes when you’re ill with any illness that causes fever, including influenza or pneumonia.
The serum bilirubin test checks for liver function and a red blood cell component called bilirubin.
Bilirubin can appear in your bloodstream as you age because our livers have less capacity to remove it from circulating blood. Bilirubin levels that are higher than normal may be seen in people with severe liver disease or a blockage of bile flow from your gallbladder (cholestasis). In some cases, especially early on in cholestasis, elevated levels may also be due to fatty deposits within your bile ducts (fatty cholestasis), even if there’s no evidence of true disease.
Chronic Liver Disease Stats In The USA
Number of adults with diagnosed liver disease: 4.5 million
Percent of adults with diagnosed liver disease: 1.8%
Source: Summary Health Statistics Tables for U.S. Adults: National Health Interview Survey, 2018
Number of deaths: 51,642
Deaths per 100,000 population: 15.7
Source: National Vital Statistics System – Mortality Data (2020) via CDC WONDER
Morbidity refers to an illness or disease. Mortality refers to death.
Kidney Function – Interpret Blood Test Results
Understanding your kidney function test results can help you learn about what’s going on with your kidneys. This can be a scary diagnosis, but keep in mind that most cases of kidney disease are treatable, and some even reversible. On average, you can expect to live two more decades after being diagnosed with end-stage renal disease. Still, it’s important to know how to interpret blood test results when it comes to your kidneys and overall health.
Biomarkers of kidney function can be used to estimate the severity and qualities of kidney injury. Conventional biomarkers for kidney function include serum creatinine (SCr), urine output (shifts in which may forego biochemical changes), and urine microscopy.
Glomerular filtration rate (GFR) is often used to estimate how well your kidneys are functioning. GFR measures how much blood your kidneys filter, or remove, from your blood every minute. In simple terms, it’s a rough way of determining how much urine is being produced by your kidneys each day. Your doctor can use GFR results to estimate how long you might live with end-stage renal disease and to compare levels between healthy individuals and those who have kidney problems.
When you purchase a Lab Me Executive Health Test – your eGFR is automatically calculated and displays where you stand in terms of kidney disease.
Kidney function is measured in different ways, and each test result is expressed differently. Your kidney function can be measured by glomerular filtration rate (GFR), or how much of your blood is filtered by your kidneys each minute. It can also be estimated by calculating serum creatinine, which measures a waste product that’s produced when muscle tissue breaks down due to physical activity. Both GFR and serum creatinine are used as estimates for how well your kidneys are functioning overall. Lowered GFR indicates a loss of kidney function and decreased ability to remove wastes from your blood.
Kidney function can be measured by one of three blood tests: serum creatinine, GFR, or urinary albumin-to-creatinine ratio. These are not diagnostic but can suggest whether further testing is necessary and what that testing should look for. That’s why it’s important to get tested if you have symptoms such as protein in your urine and swelling in your legs, belly, or face.
Kidney Disease Statistics In The USA
Chronic kidney disease (CKD)
- According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Chronic Kidney Disease in the United States, 2021 External link report
- CKD is slightly more common in women (14%) than men (12%).
- CKD is more common in non-Hispanic Black adults (16%) than non-Hispanic white adults (13%) or non-Hispanic Asian adults (13%).
- About 14% of Hispanic adults have CKD.
- CKD is most common among people ages 65 or older (38%), followed by people ages 45 to 64 (12%) and people ages 18 to 44 (6%).
In 2018, adjusted mortality was more than twice as high among Medicare beneficiaries ages 66 years or older with CKD (96.0 per 1,000) compared with those without CKD (41.0 per 1,000).
Adjusted mortality dropped by nearly 15% in patients receiving hemodialysis and by nearly 20% in patients receiving peritoneal dialysis between 2009 and 2018.
Adjusted mortality is significantly lower in patients with a kidney transplant (48.9 per 1,000) compared with patients receiving dialysis (160.8 per 1,000).
*The United States Renal Data System 2020 Annual Data Report
Thyroid Function – Interpret Blood Test Results
A recent study in Italy showed that only half of the patients with thyroid disease had normal TSH levels, indicating that other thyroid hormone measures should be used when evaluating patients with possible hypothyroidism. Checking thyroid antibodies, for example, can help differentiate between Hashimoto’s disease and subclinical hypothyroidism. Patients with an elevated TSH and a negative anti-thyroid peroxidase antibody test are more likely to have subclinical hypothyroidism rather than Hashimoto’s disease.
One of these abnormalities is Hashimoto’s disease. This disorder is characterized by anti-thyroid peroxidase (anti-TPO) and/or anti-thyroglobulin (anti-Tg) antibodies, an elevated TSH, a suppressed or low total triiodothyronine (T3), and an elevated reverse T3.
A second condition, called subclinical hypothyroidism, is diagnosed when a patient has a low or normal TSH and slightly elevated serum T4 levels. This disorder should be suspected in patients with nonspecific symptoms such as fatigue and weight gain.
Inadequate thyroid hormone levels, or hypothyroidism, are diagnosed by an elevated TSH and low levels of both total T4 and free T4. This condition is frequently associated with fatigue, depression, weight gain, constipation, high cholesterol, and other symptoms. The most common cause of hypothyroidism is Hashimoto’s disease. It’s thought that as many as 90 percent of people with Hashimoto’s disease have a goiter.
Hyperthyroidism is usually due to an overactive thyroid gland. Causes include Graves’ disease, toxic nodular goiter, multinodular goiter, and subacute thyroiditis. Treatments may include medication (antithyroid drugs), radioactive iodine treatment, or surgery to remove part of or all of the thyroid gland.
TSH normal values are 0.5 to 5.0 mIU/L. Pregnancy, a history of thyroid cancer, a history of pituitary gland disease, and older age are some situations when TSH is optimally maintained in different ranges as guided by an endocrinologist. FT4 normal values are 0.7 to 1.9ng/dL.
T3 is typically only checked in patients with suspected hyperthyroidism or for a patient suspected of having thyroid cancer. T3 levels are normal if less than 100ng/dL. T4 normal values are 4.0 to 12ng/dL, and free T4 is 0.8 to 2ng/dL.
Test your thyroid at home using Lab Me. It includes the following biomarkers:
- TSH (Thyroid Stimulating Hormone)
- Free T3 (Triiodothyronine)
- Free T4 (Thyroxine)
- TPOab (Thyroid Peroxidase Antibody)
If you are looking for a more comprehensive at-home thyroid test, consider the Lab Me Comprehensive Thyroid test which includes:
- Thyroxin (T4)
- Free T3 – Triiodothyronine
- Thyroglobulin (Tgbn)
- Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH)
- Free Triiodothyronine (fT3)
- Free Thyroxin (fT4)
- Thyroid Peroxidase Antibodies (TPOab)
The Lab Me at home comprehensive thyroid test allows you to see if you have too little, or too much, iodine and selenium, and/or exposure to the iodine/selenium antagonists bromine, arsenic, and mercury; full assessment of thyroid health, including screening for hypo or hyperthyroidism, determines Free T4 and Free T3 levels, testing for autoimmune thyroid disease, and monitoring thyroid replacement dosages.
Further Lab Testing
A number of other tests are also frequently ordered, including Complete blood count (CBC): Used to determine if you have anemia or infection and to monitor your overall health. Comprehensive metabolic panel (CMP): A test used to detect several medical conditions, including diabetes, kidney disease, high cholesterol, and fatty liver. Lipid panel: An evaluation of your cholesterol levels. Liver function tests: A screening of your liver’s health. Thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) test: An evaluation of thyroid health. Autoimmune panels (such as anti-thyroid antibodies or antinuclear antibodies) may be performed if autoimmune disease is suspected.
In addition to your disease-focused blood test results, you may also receive information about other lab values, such as Normal range is a statistical measure of typical health in a population. It can be used for estimating your risk for certain diseases or conditions and for comparing different populations (such as men versus women).
If your lab value falls outside of the normal range, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you have an abnormal condition. However, it does mean that there is reason to further investigate and consider treatment options. The reference range is a medical term referring to ranges defined by laboratory tests based on a large number of previous patient samples or volunteers with specific characteristics that may not match yours exactly.
Understanding your test results is a team effort. It’s important to work with your healthcare provider and/or lab to understand what you can do to improve your health and what steps to take next. Your healthcare team will help you assess your results, discuss which options are right for you, and guide you in finding new or better treatment options as they become available. If you’re experiencing any health problems or have specific concerns about your health, it’s always a good idea to speak with a medical professional.
A family doctor or other general practitioner is an excellent resource for general medical advice, managing symptoms, and staying healthy on a day-to-day basis.
Complete Blood Counts (CBC) – Interpret Blood Test Results
A complete blood count (CBC) is a routine test used to check for a variety of things, including red and white blood cell counts, platelet count, hemoglobin levels, and hematocrit levels.
Complete blood counts are most commonly used to test for anemia, which is when your red blood cells aren’t carrying enough oxygen. Your doctor may also order a CBC to help diagnose or monitor other conditions, including infections, leukemias, and other cancers, liver problems, kidney diseases, bleeding disorders, and various inflammatory conditions. A CBC with different tests on it – such as a complete blood count with differential – can give you more information about your blood cell makeup and health status. In some cases, you may need more than one CBC in order to get all of that information.
Read More: Lymphocytes May Predict Early Death
What Are Red Blood Cells Made Of? (Hint: It’s not just hemoglobin)
Red blood cell normal ranges are given as a percentage. Hemoglobin, RBC count, and hematocrit values may be given in units of grams per deciliter (g/dL) or as a percentage. The most common cause of abnormal RBC counts is Iron-Deficiency Anemia – Interpret Blood Test Results: You may have iron deficiency anemia if you have a low red blood cell count, especially if you also feel tired, dizzy, or lightheaded. This type of anemia is sometimes called iron deficiency anemia because it’s often caused by having too little iron in your body. Anemic just means that you don’t have enough red blood cells.
A normal range in adults is generally considered to be 4.35 to 5.65 million red blood cells per microliter (mcL) of blood for men and 3.92 to 5.13 million red blood cells per mcL of blood for women. In children, the threshold for high red blood cell count varies with age and sex.
What does a low red blood count mean?
A low red blood cell count means you have anemia, a condition that could be caused by a variety of factors like blood loss, genetic disorders, cancer treatments, and other causes. Discovering anemia is often the starting point to diagnosing an underlying condition. Red blood cells carry oxygen in the blood.
What happens if the RBC count is high?
What is a high red blood cell count? A high red blood cell count is a condition called polycythemia vera. If you have this medical condition, it means that your bone marrow is producing too many red blood cells. This can result in thickening of the blood, slow flow of blood, and eventually blood clots.
White blood cell (WBC) count
Also known as leukocytes, white blood cells are a major component of the body’s immune system. A high white blood cell count can indicate the presence of infection, while a low count can point towards various conditions, including HIV/AIDS and lupus.
What is a low white blood cell count? Low levels of white blood cells can be due to multiple reasons, including lifestyle choices, certain medications, or underlying infections. Many diseases, such as HIV infection and lymphoma, have lower WBC counts as a symptom.
A condition called reactive hypogammaglobulinemia might also explain low WBC counts if you have experienced recurrent infections. As in the case of anemia, most of these conditions are diagnosed based on results from other tests (e.g., HIV/AIDS may be detected via a combination of CD4+ T-cell counts and viral load).
The CBC tests the five main components of white blood cells and their proportion to each other. If the components are out of balance, this could indicate an infection, as well as a variety of medical conditions. Healthy proportions for each are:
- Neutrophils: 40 to 60 percent of the total
- Lymphocytes: 20 to 40 percent
- Monocytes: 2 to 8 percent
- Eosinophils: 1 to 4 percent
- Basophils: 0.5 to 1 percent
Lab Me is the first company in the world to provide an at-home CBC with a differential. Learn more here.
Comprehensive metabolic panel (CMP) – Interpret Blood Test Results
The comprehensive metabolic panel test, also known as a chemistry panel, measures the body’s glucose levels, fluid and electrolyte balance, as well as liver and kidney function. It consists of a number of sub-tests:
Normal: 3.4 to 5.4 g/dL (34 to 54 g/L)
Albumin is a protein produced by the liver. Its volume within the organ can be measured via this test. Abnormal levels can be caused by liver or kidney problems.
Total protein test
Normal: 6.0 to 8.3 g/dL (60 to 83 g/L)
The lab tests the ratio of two types of proteins: albumin and globulin. Low protein levels can indicate various conditions, including liver and kidney disorders and malnutrition, while high levels can be a sign of inflammation, infection or bone marrow disorder.
Alanine aminotransferase (ALT)
Normal: 4 to 36 U/L
Alanine aminotransferase (ALT) is an enzyme mostly produced by liver cells. High levels can be an indication of liver damage.
Normal: 0.1 to 1.2 mg/dL (2 to 21 µmol/L)
The lab tests for kidney and liver dysfunction which is useful in diagnosing conditions such as neonatal jaundice, anemia, and liver diseases.
Blood urea nitrogen (BUN)
Normal: 6 to 20 mg/dL (2.14 to 7.14 mmol/L)
This test measures the volume of nitrogen in the blood. High levels can be caused by kidney damage or disease, while low levels may be a sign of malnutrition or severe liver damage.
Normal: 8.5 to 10.2 mg/dL (2.13 to 2.55 mmol/L)
This test measures the levels of calcium in the blood. If testing indicates low levels, this can indicate under-active parathyroid glands, insufficient calcium in your diet, or Vit D insufficiency, and other less common conditions.
High levels can indicate conditions including overactive parathyroid glands, excessive Vit D supplementation, kidney problems as well as more concerning causes that usually require further investigation. Proper interpretation of calcium levels often requires testing of other parameters such as total serum protein and albumin.
Normal: 20 to 130 U/L
Alkaline phosphatase is an enzyme typically produced in liver and bone cells. Results outside of the normal levels can signal liver damage and bone problems such as rickets or bone tumors.
Normal: 8 to 33 U/L
Aspartate aminotransferase is an enzyme usually found in RBCs and muscle tissue, as well as the heart, pancreas, liver, and kidneys. This test measures the levels of this enzyme in the body, with results above the healthy range indicating a variety of conditions, including some types of cancer, as well as liver, heart, or kidney damage.
Normal: 96 to 106 mEq/L (96 to 106 mmol/L)
This test measures the body’s chloride levels. An increased level of chloride can indicate dehydration as well as kidney disorders and adrenal gland dysfunction.
Normal: 0.6 to 1.3 mg/dL (53 to 114.9 µmol/L)
Creatinine is a chemical waste molecule that is important for creating muscle energy. Increased levels of creatinine can be a sign of kidney dysfunction.
Fasting blood sugar
Normal: 70 to 100 mg/dL (3.9 to 5.6 mmol/L)
Blood sugar levels are easily affected by recent food or drink intake. The fasting blood sugar test is therefore done after a minimum of six hours of fasting. Abnormal results can indicate diabetes, among other medical conditions.
Normal: 2.8 to 4.5 mg/dL
The lab tests the amount of phosphorus in the blood. Elevated levels can indicate problems with the kidneys and parathyroid glands, and they may be a sign of malnutrition or alcohol abuse.
Normal: 3.7 to 5.2 mEq/L (3.70 to 5.20 mmol/L)
Potassium aids the communication between nerves and muscles regulates the heart and maintains muscle function. Diuretics (a substance or medication used to increase urination) can cause potassium levels to fall.
Normal: 135 to 145 mEq/L (135 to 145 mmol/L)
Sodium is a mineral that aids nerve impulses and muscle contractions, as well as balancing water levels. Irregularities are a possible indication of dehydration, adrenal gland disorders, corticosteroids, and kidney or liver disorders.
All in all, a comprehensive metabolic panel is just one way to analyze your body’s unique chemistry and biomarkers to learn more about your wellness journey. There are no perfect CMP results for everyone. Instead, it’s best to think of a CMP as a learning experience you can use to improve the effects of your future workouts, dieting plans, and supplement choices.
Interested in beta-testing Lab Me’s at home CMP? Contact us and let us know.
Testing Your Blood At-Home With Lab Me
Lab Me is a convenient and affordable way to run a blood test from home. You can get your lab results back online or with a phone call. LabMe offers the most comprehensive and affordable at-home blood tests available. You can buy a package deal on their website for an additional discount. Prices vary depending on what test you need to be done; in most cases, each test costs less than $70!
Lab Me will ship you a test kit in 2-3 business days. After you collect your sample, follow the instructions to place it in a prepaid box and mail it back. Lab Me may take up to 7 days to process results after they receive your package. However, typically results are published 48 hours after the sample is received by the lab.
Learn more about Lab Me’s accuracy and labs here.