Because elders tend to take more medications it is important to understand why they need the blood tests done so often and how it helps the physician determine the treatments. The age progression brings many challenges to our health and things like blood pressure, lipid panels, and medication management can help ease into our senior years more healthy.
These tests are the standard bloodwork when trying to determine how your health is and if there are any things to be concerned about. Even thought there are a multitude of tests available your doctor will begin with the basics and do more as needed. It is always a good idea to review the results with your doctor and discuss the level of concern you should have.
Here are the standard tests and what they help determine:
Complete Blood Count (CBC) helps to measure specific components in our blood and tells us about possible infections, anemia, and the overall health of our blood cells.
- WBC – white blood cells help our bodies defend against infection. If our WBC is high, it usually signals infection or can be altered by stress, inflammation, leukemia, or cancer. If it is low, it could signal a viral infection or an autoimmune disorder or chemotherapy
- RBC – red blood cells work to carry oxygen throughout our bodies. If RBCs are low, there may be iron, B12, or folate deficiency. If the RBCs are high, your senior could have possible kidney trouble or be dehydrated.
- Hemoglobin – carries oxygen. If this is abnormal, the reasons could be the same as for your RBC’s.
- Hematocrit – number of red blood cells. Again the results are the same for RBCs and Hemoglobin.
- Platelet count – number of blood cells that aid clotting. If the number is low it could be related to a viral infection, pernicious anemia, chemotherapy, or lupus. If the value is high is might mean inflammatory issues, leukemia, or disorders causing abnormal growth in the bone marrow.
Comprehensive Metabolic Panel (CMP) measures your liver and kidney functions.
- Glucose – a measure of sugar (glucose) in the blood. Hypoglycemia is low blood sugar. A low value could also signal liver disease, excess insulin production, or adrenal insufficiency. Hyperglycemia is high blood sugar. If the number is high, diabetes/pre-diabetes, pancreatitis, or hyperthyroidism.
- BUN – this is the waste product from the liver which is filtered from the blood and excreted in the kidneys. If low, it is likely from malnutrition. If high, points to the kidney, heart failure, or liver disease.
- Creatinine – waste produced by muscle metabolism. If low it usually indicates malnutrition. If high, it indicates chronic or acute kidney impairment.
- Albumin – this is a protein in blood that nourishes tissues and carries nutrients. If low it could indicate malnutrition. If high, it indicates dehydration.
- Sodium, potassium, and chloride – electrolytes that keep your senior’s body in balance. If low it could mean your senior takes a diuretic, diarrhea, lung disease, or adrenal insufficiency. If high, dehydration, kidney disease, diabetes, or Addison’s disease are likely causes.
- ALP/ALT/AST – these enzymes are found in the liver, bones, and muscles. If ALP is low could mean malnutrition. ALT/AST, not a concern if low. If high it could indicate bone cancer, hepatitis, excess alcohol or other toxins, muscle injury, bile duct obstruction, or Paget’s disease.
- Bilirubin – the pigment in the bile, digestive fluid made by the liver. If low, not a problem; but if high, would indicate liver disease, bile duct problem, or red cell destruction.
All of these tests help you and your doctor determine the best level of care needed for yourself or senior family members. Remember that things like healthy clean eating and drinking plenty of water can make a big impact on someone’s test results and overall health. Maintaining proper nutrition, exercise, and checkups with your doctor is a great way to keep everything normal. Happy healthy living friends!