blood tests

On A Personal Note: How To Interpret Simple Blood Tests

In an earlier post we talked about eight simple blood tests that you should have done to help you keep track of your health. I recently had my yearly check-up at my primary care physciacns office so I thought I’d share my lab results and how to read simple blood tests.

How To Read Blood Tests

When I wrote about eight simple blood tests that people should have there are three that come to mind that I like to have done on a yearly basis: a lipid panel, a complete metabolic panel (CMP), and a compelte blood count (CMP). A simple lipid panel will tell you if your cholesterol is something you should be worried about, a CMP gives you some insight on your electrolyte levels, liver function, and kidney function. Lastly, a CBC can tell you if you have anything that might hint that you could have cancer, anemia, or some sort of crazy infection going on.

Luckily, everything on my tests came back okay (heck I’m only 31), but I figure I could explain the blood tests in detail so some people have some insight as to what blood tests results could mean if they’re taking a look at their results for themselves.

The Basic Metabolic Panel

The BMP takes a look at a few different things inside of your body and can give you some pretty good insight into how things are functioning over all. Let’s break it down.

Kidney Function:

Test Name Result Range
Blood Urea Nitrogen 25 mg/dl 7-25
Creatinine 0.95 mg/dl 0.60-1.35
GFR 106 > or = to 60

The GFR is the rate at which your kidneys filter your blood. If your rate starts dropping below 60, it’s not a good thing. A BUN and Creatinine can also indicate poor kidney function if levels are abnormal. But it can also indicate other things like dehydration. Elevated creatinine levels can also be related to rhabdomyolosis (rapid muscle breakdown) from either malnutrition or intense workouts.

Electrolytes, Carbon Dioxide, and Sugar

Test Name Result Range
Sodium 139 mmol/L 135-146
Potassium 4.4 mmol/L 3.5-5.3
Chloride 104 mmol/L 98-110
Carbon Dioxide 20 mmol/L 19-30
Calcium 9.8 mg/dL 8.6-10.3
Fasting Glucose 88 mg/dL 65-99

Sodium and potassium are critical for your cells. Out of whack sodium levels can lead to confusion, cramping, and seizures. Abnormal potassium levels can also lead to cramping, seizures, and deadly heart rhythms. Simple things like drinking too much water in a day can lower your sodium levels. For the average person, excessive fluid loss through sweat can lower potassium and sodium levels if a person isn’t re-hydrating properly or including foods that contain the two in them. Vomiting and diarrhea are also two common causes of abnormal electrolyte levels.

Carbon Dioxide and Chloride:

These two results give you a snapshot into the pH state of your body – whether you’re running at an acidotic or alkalotic state. There is some mis-information out there in the nutrition world that seems to throw around the myth that acidotic states are bad and alkalotic states are good. Both are bad.

It’s all about the anion gap:

Your sodium – chloride – carbon dioxide. If your final number is more than 16 your body could be acidotic.


Abnormal calcium levels can indicate something may be up with your kidneys, parathyroid glands, bone issues, or certain types of cancers.

Blood Sugar:

If this test is done after you’ve been fasting for at least 8 hours your blood sugar should be within the range of about 70-100. Anything higher and it could indicate diabetes. That’s when you might want to ask your primary care physician for a hemoglobin A1C test to look into things further. Something on the lower side could indicate you might need to be checked for having low blood sugar.

The Proteins

Test Name Result Range
Total Protein 7.3 g/dL 6.1-8.1
Albumin 4.7 g/dL 3.6-5.1
Globulin 2.6 g/dL 1.9-3.7
Albumin/Globulin Ratio 1.8 1.0-2.5

Yep, proteins can be tested also. Abnormal protein levels can indicate problems with the kidneys or liver (though your liver and kidney tests will usually reflect that as well). Low levels can indicate there might be some issue with not getting enough protein in your diet. If you think you’re getting enough protein in your diet then it could be related to something wrong with your digestion (celiac disease or irritable bowel syndrome). A low albumin/globulin ratio might indicate there could be some autoimmune issues going on.

Liver Function

Test Name Result Range
Alkaline Phosphate 95 U/L 40-115
AST 18 U/L 10-40
ALT 14 U/L 9-46

These tests indicate the function of your liver. Elevated results could mean that there is something seriously wrong with your liver or gall bladder. Elevated results are common on those who drink alcohol frequently, have hepatitis, liver cancer, or gallstones.

The Complete Blood Count

Have a low hemoglobin and hematocrit? Congrats, you’re anemic. A low white blood count? There might be something wrong with your bone marrow…possibly even cancer. A high white count? You’ve got some infection going on somewhere in your body. How about a high hemoglobin and hematocrit? Well, your blood is thicker than the average persons – sometimes people will have to have their blood taken out of them to make their blood thinner.

A Couple Of Other Things:

High eosinophils or basophils? They’re a component of white blood cells. You may have some inflammation going on inside your body caused by allergies or a parasite.

Test Name Result Range
White Blood Cells 4.8 3.8-10.8
Red Blood Cells 4.57 4.20-5.80
Hemoglobin 14.1 g/dL 13.2-17.1
Hematocrit 41.7 % 38.5-50
Platelet Count 186 Thousand/uL 140-400
Absolute Neutrophils 2659 cells/uL 1500-7800
Absolute Lymphocytes 1718 850-3900
Absolute Monocytes 312 200-950
Absolute Eosinophils 91 15-500
Absolute Basophils 19 0-200

The Lipid Panel

This one is pretty self-explanatory and this one comes down to fat. Triglycerides is the amount of fat floating around in your blood. HDL is traditionally known as the “good” cholesterol and LDL is traditionally known as the “bad” cholesterol. Recent research has shown that there are different types of LDL cholesterol – some worse than other types.

The big take away from a lipid panel:

The triglyceride and HDL ratio. The higher the triglyceride and HDL ratio the higher the risk for heart disease. Ideally, you want the number to be under five. My ratio comes in at a whopping 0.5 – not too shabby. Remember this, your body needs cholesterol. If you’re not getting it in your diet, your liver is going to make it for you. You need it. But, too much of it can be a bad thing.

If you do have elevated cholesterol, ask your doctor for a cholesterol particle test. That test will break down your cholesterol levels even further and let you know if your cholesterol levels contain particles of cholesterol that are worse than others.

Remember: about half of people who have heart attacks have normal cholesterol levels. Preventing inflammation in your body plays an equal (if not more) important role at making sure that cholesterol does not become harmful.

Test Name Result Range
Total Cholesterol 160mg/dL 125-200
HDL Cholesterol 66 mg/dL > or = to 40
Triglycerides 38 mg/dL < 150
Direct LDL 87 mg/dL < 130
Chloesterol/HDL Ratio 2.4 < or = 5
Non HDL Cholesterol 94 mg/dL 30 mg/dL higher than LDL chloesterol target.

A lipid panal

The Thyroid Stimulating Hormone

Test Name Result Range
TSH 1.47 mlU/L 0.40-4.50

This one is pretty self-explanatory but very good to know. They thyroid is vital to regulating so many of your body’s different functions and most importantly – your metabolism. TSH actually comes from an area in your brain but it stimulates the thyroid gland to work. Low levels of TSH mean that your thyroid is overactive and your brain doesn’t need to release as much TSH to stimulate your thyroid to work. High TSH levels could indicate the opposite – your thyroid is underactive so it takes greater levels of TSH to stimulate your thyroid gland. An underactive thyroid is also known as hypothyroidism.

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Disclaimer: This breakdown of basic blood results is not intended to help you self-diagnose yourself. It’s merely to help you understand your blood tests and why they’re ordered. If you have any abnormalities you should consult your primary care physician to get to the route cause of your abnormal blood values.

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