When you get your blood tested as part of a routine checkup, you might be relieved when everything comes back normal and your doctor doesn’t find anything alarming. However, what happens if your blood work turns up abnormal results? Should you be worried, or will it go away on its own? What does it mean for your health and wellness? Here’s what you need to know about blood work and abnormal results.
Routine blood testing
Your doctor will usually recommend that you get routine blood work at least once a year, around the same time as your yearly physical.
However, this is the bare minimum. There are several major reasons you may want to get blood tests more often than that:
- You’re experiencing unusual, persistent symptoms. These could include anything from fatigue to abnormal weight gain to new pain.
- You want to optimize your health. Knowing levels of various blood components, such as HDL and LDL cholesterol, can allow you to tweak your diet or fitness plan to minimize unhealthy habits (that you may not even realize are unhealthy). This can also maximize the nutrients you put in your body and more.
- You want to reduce your risk of disease or complications.
Regular blood tests can catch the warning signs of almost any disease early. Many heart, lung, and kidney conditions can be diagnosed using blood tests.
Abnormal blood work results are common, especially when you get routine blood testing. One out of every 20 people who get routine blood testing will have an abnormal result. There are multiple reasons that someone might have abnormal blood work results, including some diseases and infections. It’s important to remember that not all abnormal test results mean you have a serious disease—some tests just give false positives, which is why it’s important to go back for further testing if your test comes back abnormal. If you receive an abnormal blood work result during your next regular checkup, talk with your doctor about what it means for you and what they recommend moving forward to understand it better.
Your doctor may suggest that you get further testing for an abnormal blood work result. This can be done using other tests or by taking another sample of your blood to check again. For example, if your cholesterol is elevated on one test but not on another, it could mean that you have hyperlipidemia rather than high cholesterol. Your doctor will work with you to determine what steps are best to figure out what’s going on. These other tests can include urine tests, x-rays, MRI scans, and CT scans, among others depending on your case. Depending on how serious it might be, getting treated early can drastically reduce your chances of developing chronic conditions in the future.
After your doctor collects all of your blood work results, they’ll be able to diagnose whether you have a disease and can provide you with steps to take to prevent it from getting worse. If you do have a chronic condition, such as high cholesterol or diabetes, there are often medical treatments that can help manage it to keep it under control. Some medications also need follow-up blood testing at regular intervals so that your doctor can adjust dosages as needed based on how well your body responds. Your doctor will determine what is right for you based on your history and current health status.
Abnormal blood test results
Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for people to find out that they have abnormal blood work. This can be incredibly frightening—especially if you don’t know what it means. But don’t worry; we’re here to tell you everything you need to know about your abnormal blood results. Here are some of our tips for how to deal with abnormal blood tests.
The most important thing to remember about abnormal blood test results is that they’re not necessarily life-threatening. Although it’s always best to talk to your doctor when you get an abnormal blood test result, in some cases, you may be told to simply wait and retest later. There are several potential reasons for abnormally high or low results, including everyday factors like diet and exercise, which can skew your normal values; less common factors like an infection or injury; or even more serious conditions like cancer. The most common cause of abnormal blood work is inflammation—which occurs when your body is trying to heal itself—and these tests can indicate if there’s something wrong inside of you.
As you can see, it’s totally normal to feel a little scared when you get an abnormal blood test result—but don’t worry: these tests don’t necessarily mean anything is wrong with you. Further conversation with your doctor often will put your mind at ease.
What to do about abnormal blood test results
Whether it’s high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol, or diabetes, what should you do if your doctor says your test results are abnormal? The answer depends on which tests reveal abnormalities. If only one test is abnormal, it may be an isolated finding. Your doctor can explain what to do next and schedule follow-up tests to help determine whether you have a condition that requires treatment. If two or more tests show problems, you should ask for an explanation because these results may indicate that other medical conditions exist. For example, if your blood sugar level is high and your cholesterol is elevated, then there’s a good chance you have diabetes or pre-diabetes.
If you have a condition that requires treatment, your doctor will prescribe a treatment plan. This may be as simple as changing your diet and starting an exercise program to control diabetes or reduce high blood pressure. In some cases, medication will be recommended as well. Don’t assume that one medication is enough—be sure to follow your doctor’s instructions on all medications you take.
In some cases, specific lifestyle changes can improve conditions such as high cholesterol and diabetes without requiring medication.
If you’re not sure what to do about abnormal blood test results, it’s important to see your doctor.
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