Health tracking devices just show you what’s going on in your body. And using that you could make better choices for your lifestyle to be healthier. On the other hand, blood tests give deeper insight than a wristband or mobile app could do. As all such services and devices becoming easier to access, healthcare is finally moving from doctor’s clinic to your hands. Thanks to the technological advances in blood testing such as Lab Me.
It is true that most of us have had drawn their blood at some point, whether it was volunteering with Red Cross or due to doctor’s prescription. So you may know how it goes. Here’s the guide, how to read and understand blood test results
Are you wondering what happens from the time needle pricks our arm to the time we get our results?
Reading blood test results is indeed a complex process. One has to store, collect, pack, transport, and to analyze the blood with very specific methods. Read on to learn everything about blood testing that you have ever wanted to know.
Reading blood test results for diabetes reveal what our body is doing and they show what’s going in our blood. Our blood is packed with various substances like nutrients, proteins, and hormones. It needs fresh blood sample to analyze them. It is a very sterile and complicated process. Also, it needs advanced machinery and fancy tools at state-of-the-art labs. Normally, giving blood sample takes no more than 3 minutes. Some people may feel slight pain and bruising from needle just after blood draw.
Why Getting Blood Tests?
Reading blood test results for iron reveal whether health problems are being developed or you are at risk which would sometimes go unnoticed. It is very vital to stop or prevent disease in its tracks. Reading blood test results for hypothyroidism will also reveal the status of treatment if you use any kind of medication. It is important to keep track on your diseases. However, blood tests can also help you track quality of health.
Track Both, Disease And Health
We get blood tests usually once a year during our health checkup. These are generic tests and focus only on limited biomarkers based on disease. This falls short to determine your health condition.
You Don’t Need To Be Sick To Feel Low
Even though you are totally fit and fine, you might still feel unfocused, tired, plateaued, slowed down, or burdened with a couple of extra pounds. It happens because your body is not optimized. So, it is important to check up your biomarkers related to cognitive and physical health. Also check performance to figure out whether you have optimal blood levels instead of normal, so that you can get the most of your potential.
Here’s What to Know about Blood
Our body has five liters of blood circulating all the time to help us survive and our body to work properly. Blood provides all the vital nutrients and oxygen to tissues and removes the wastage. More than 45% of blood includes red blood cells, and only 1% of them have platelets and white cells. Rest 55% of them are made of plasma, i.e. transparent yellowish fluid.
Our body has five liters of blood circulating all the time to help us survive and our body to work properly.
Each Substance Plays A Vital Role
Plasma to nourish tissues – Plasma is a clear liquid in the blood which moves nutrients and water to the tissues of the body.
- 92% of plasma holds water
- 7% of plasma has proteins like clotting factors and antibodies
- Less than 1% has nutrients like sugar, hormones like insulin, and electrolytes like sodium
White blood cells prevent infection – White blood cells play a vital role in fighting infection and support our immune system.
Red blood cells pump oxygen – Red blood cells carry hemoglobin, a protein carries out oxygen throughout the body and filters carbon dioxide off the body tissues.
Platelets control blood clot – Platelets are small cells in the blood which are helpful in blood clot. They seal the cuts on the walls of blood vessels to control bleeding.
There are different procedures and tests to analyze various blood substances. According to what is getting tested, you should prepare for blood test.
How to Prepare for Blood Test?
Special preparation is not recommended for all tests. But, some tests need fasting for up to 12 hours before drawing blood. Fasting makes blood test give better report about your baseline, natural blood levels. Substances from the food changes blood levels temporarily and can affect analysis. Sample taken without fasting give misleading outcomes.
Consider skipping exercise for a day – Any kind of physical activity may also affect blood levels. So, you should refrain from being involved in any type of exercise for 24 hours before you get your blood drawn. But it is recommended to drink plenty of water during 24 hours. This helps blood to flow easily and smoothly while drawing it and you will feel less pain.
Even three to five vials loaded are safe amount and unsubstantial out of 5 liters of blood circulating throughout the body. This way, they can have enough samples for backup if some samples are lost. It also prepares you for confirmatory tests which may be required after tests.
What You Need to Do?
When it comes to determine reliability and accuracy of blood test, it all depends on you. It is indeed a sample from the body, be it in the form of urine or blood on which the whole test will be done. Hence, you need to do these things to get the results helpful:
- Follow all the instructions carefully that you are given to prepare for the particular tests that are being performed.
- If you don’t know how to understand blood test results and instructions given, tell the person who is collecting the sample. Tell your doctor about any medications you are taking (i.e. vitamins, herbal medicines, and health and dietary supplements) or any foods that you have consumed before test.
In most of the blood tests, you don’t need any special preparation. Make sure that you follow all the instructions, if they are given for some tests. If you have any doubts, ask your doctor. The most common example of special tests which need some preparation is fasting, in which you have to go for test without consuming certain or all foods for several hours or even overnight.
In some tests, you may want to lower or raise the amount of beverages you have in 10 to 12 hours before test. There are certain medications and foods you should avoid which you will be asked for, or you may be suggested not to smoke or drink alcohol before test.
Here Are Some Of The Common Blood Tests Which Need You To Prepare In Advance
Glucose Tolerance – It is taken when you have to fast for several hours before taking samples.
Serum lipids (cholesterol, triglycerides) – You cannot eat overnight for this type of test.
Faecal occult blood test – It is taken when you cannot take some medications and foods.
Why Do You Need Identification?
It is very important to confirm your identity for all types of pathology tests before letting someone to collect sample. Blood sample is labeled by the blood collector just after drawing blood with your accurate details (including date of birth and full name) before leaving your side.
Before the blood sample is collected for testing, it is very vital for the person who is collecting your blood sample to ask you to spell or state your full name and date of birth. It is very important to ensure your safety. If you are with someone who cannot confirm identity like child or someone incapacitated, you need to verify your identity and provide their right details. Your identity band will be checked in a hospital setting to verify the right person.
Collector may repeat details once your blood sample is collected when it comes to write on sample label and/or hand you the blood sample tube labeled to ensure that the date of birth written is right and spelling of your name is correct. It is the best way to ensure correct labeling of blood sample tube and to ensure your safety. If labeling of the blood sample is wrong, it would become important to take another blood test.
Incorrectly labeled blood samples or altered samples are not accepted in most laboratories for conducting tests. It is important for your safety. Lab technicians ask your date of birth and full name to ensure safety of the patient before every test.
Precision and Accuracy
There are two different ways to assess the value of any test. First of all, test is done to figure out the right answer and to figure out whether the test is reproducible (ensuring it is giving same results every time). These are the ways of getting right answer (accuracy) and getting same result every time (precision).
References Ranges and Their Meaning
There are a lot of changes in humans like weight, height, and hair color. But there is a specific normal range. If height of a person is 8 feet, we all would say it as abnormal. These variations are often gender specific and ethnically. Chinese people usually have dark hair and men are usually taller than women.
All of these tests measured in pathology labs have this range of values in normal population. Results of the tests used to diagnose the health conditional gradually go unusual and vary from normal range of changes in healthy adults. There may be gradual change from normal to abnormal and it may take several years. For example, levels of glucose increase eventually with diabetes in patients until diagnosed. It is hard to diagnose a disease due to slow change going to abnormal.
It is known as the range of variation in the result that is found as reference range of reference interval in healthy population. Interpretation of a test compares the results of the person with normal or reference test for the test.
How to Determine Normal Range For Performing Test?
Defining healthy population is the first step to define reference range. It is not so easy to define what is healthy. The reference range is determined from specific set of outcomes in the group of healthy people. For a specific laboratory test, the reference range is defined as average value for the group of normal population with the variation across the value. Hence, the ranges quoted by labs represent the values in 95% of people in the chosen reference group.
Even in normal population, the consequence of this method is that, a test result is out of the reference range in 5% cases. This is why ‘reference range’ is chosen over normal or average range. Reference interval is the term which replaces reference range.
Whether your test result falls under the reference range of the laboratory or not, it should be considered in the context of personal situations and with benefit of your doctor’s knowhow of your personal and medical history, with results of other investigations that are performed.
Quality Control and Quality Assurance
Pathology laboratories undertake various formal processes to ensure getting the same results of testing samples no matter which labs or number of times sample is checked. These processes are of two different types –
- Internal Quality Control (IQC) – It determines how laboratory ensures they get same result on sample.
- External Quality Assessment or EQA – It ensures all labs test same sample to give same outcome.
Quality Assurance covers everything performed by the lab to ensure quality service for the users, including EQA and IQC. Laboratories analyze IQC materials every day which are similar to the sample with certain concentrations of substances like glucose and cholesterol to ensure getting the best results. If the expected result is not produced in these tests, testing process may have a problem. At the same time, no samples are released until technicians find the solution.
EQA schemes are always the same but sample is sent to various laboratories to analyze the sample. It is important for all laboratories to get the same result on the sample. If they don’t, it is important to investigate the process of testing.
Where a sample is analyzed doesn’t matter. It will always get same result as if it was tested in other lab. Independent non-commercial organizations manage the EQA schemes and submit the data on labs and test method can help labs to determine problems by analyzing performance with others through various testing methods.
To ensure each step of the process is monitored (including sampling, requesting, reporting and analysis), laboratories conduct complete quality assurance to provide correct test results. Then reliable test results are generated and communicated to the concerned specialist on timely basis.
The Quality Assurance program of each laboratory may not be infallible and it defines the staff competence requirements, monitoring, and equipment maintenance, and various standards of operations. Along with following in-house guidelines, professional organizations keep track on laboratories.
Lab me tracks your blood work overtime giving you an extra layer of control and security over your blood work and the quality assurance associated.
How to Ensure Test is Valid and can Diagnose Disease?
Validation of blood sample refers to the evaluation and collection of data. It is clinically proven that process can deliver quality products consistently. Tests which are about to be used commonly should meet the criteria listed by CDC.
What is ACCE Framework?
ACCE framework was designed to evaluate genetic tests. But it applies to all forms of lab tests. There are four important factors to evaluate lab tests –
- Analyzing test ensures that it is able to measure the component of interest reliably and accurately along with its technical performance.
- Clinical validity shows that it can predict or detect the absence or presence of clinical disease which is accepted or predisposition.
- Social, ethical, and legal implications of test. It covers how test is promoted and how it explains the reason of test, false-positive incidents, or simply fast diagnosis.
The most common reason behind the failure of tests is they don’t meet the criteria. It’s due to further exam which is supposed to be a poor indicator between the ones with and without illness. When test is evaluated in healthy adults and people having disease in advanced level, it may really work well.
Some people will have disease in early stage to make it even harder (which is especially when it comes to detect the same), instead of the ones with disease in advanced stage who were used in comparisons earlier. It is where a lot of new tests cannot work. They are either positive in many people with false positive or negative in some people who have false negative (early stage illness) and they are often both. There are usually no tests which can recognize everyone with a condition while being negative in everyone without any condition.
Some genetic tests come around this are best but both false negative and false positive tests are described. There are different reasons behind the failure of tests. It includes, being too hard to perform, too costly, too many interference, too unreliable, or looking for toxic chemical reagents.
How to test the reliability of Information?
Friends of Science in Medicine (FSM) has released important report in October 2013 and announced four main principles for pathology tests –
Does It Reflect The Actual Health Status Of The Body?
Simply speaking, you should find out if measurement in test tube reflects the reading in patient’s blood (or whatever tissue is getting checked. This type of test defines its analytical validity.
Does Test Result Have Any Important Relationship With The Concerned Disease?
Is the measurement normal in patients or abnormal with a specific illness? Is it possible to use the test result to predict that person may develop a specific disease? This phenomenon is known as clinical validity.
Can You Get To Know Other Details That Are Not Available With The Test Result?
Can a patient make a health decision on the basis of this test result which wouldn’t have been possible in any other way? If test result confirms something which is common and patient knows already, there is no important information in the test. This characteristic is known as clinical utility of the test.
Is This Test Justifiable To The Cost?
Is this test cost effective or useful enough for the patient? It is important for both patients and governments when it comes to decide the best test to pay for.
But it really doesn’t make sense to keep non-accredited labs providing non-validated tests which don’t meet the above mentioned criteria. Also accredited labs providing non-validated tests is bad for society. However, Medicare doesn’t cover non-validated tests. There are different tests which meet the criteria given for specific patients but may not be covered. Hence, it is not enough to differentiate between non-validated and validated test.
Such types of tests have some new tests which are not assessed yet for Medicare. Also they have some tests which are used for new genetic tests and rare diseases. Users may need to pay in full or the cost is often covered by the State Health Departments.
Use Lab Me For Blood Test Interpretations
According to what has been tested, you may get blood test reports within 3 to 7 days. You have to do nothing, if there’s no disease found. After getting results, scan your report with Lab Me and its machine intelligence algorithm will make recommendations to improve your health by reading blood test results. It is a practical step for you to feel and live better.