This post will be addressing an important aspect of modern medicine, which is the process of “drawing blood” from patients for diagnostic testing.
Many older adults may have experienced blood tests. Even in most emergency medical care, blood is drawn.
However, as part of an annual checkup and full physical examination, blood tests are done.
Ageing adults are usually asked to get blood tests as a typical procedure to diagnose several issues affecting their health. But, this isn’t always done.
Are you fatigued, low on energy, confused, boiling or delirious? In such scenarios, a blood test or blood work can be helpful for evaluation. It can check for infection, thyroid and kidney issues and much more.
Blood work is likely overused, but sometimes older adults need to undergo it to know their health condition.
Before now, patients knew very little about lab results from blood tests as only doctors reviewed them. In recent times, patients are now curious and want to know what a blood test is saying concerning their health.
Being an older adult, you ask for a copy of your lab result and document it properly.
Here, the ten regularly used blood tests for older adults will be discussed. We’ll start with the first 4 “panels” used conventionally, move onto the next 6 blood tests and end with practical tips for blood tests.
4 conventional panels in blood testing
Complete Blood Count (CBC):
This measures the blood cells in the body and usually done as collective testing where results of the following are obtained:000000000
- White Blood Cell Count (WBCs): The number of white blood cells in each microlitre of blood.
- Red Blood Cell Count (RBCs): The number of red blood cells in each microlitre of blood.
- Hemoglobin (Hgb): How many grams of this oxygenated protein is in a decilitre of blood.
- Hematocrit (Hct): Fraction of red blood cells that make up the blood.
- Mean Corpuscular Volume (MCV): Average size of red blood cells.
- Platelet count (Plts): How many platelets in each microlitre of blood.
You can order for CBC “with differential”. However, at a private blood testing in London, you can know more about this.
CBC is sometimes used to diagnose:
- Anemia – a condition where the RBCs, Hgb, and Hct have abnormally low levels.
- Bone marrow issues
- The underlying cause of low-level platelet count in older adults
Basic metabolic (electrolyte) panel:
This measures electrolytes in the blood. However, it’s possible to order a single electrolyte measurement. But common practise is to order electrolytes as parts of a panel of 7 or 8 measurements that are made up of:
- Carbon dioxide
- Blood urea nitrogen (BUN)
The above is typically described as a “chem 7” panel.
Basic metabolic panel checks for:
- Side effects of medications can cause high and low levels of potassium and sodium
- Blood acidity with CO2 levels
- Kidney function using BUN and creatinine levels
- Sugar in the blood using glucose levels
Comprehensive metabolic panel:
This measures the “chem 7” panel plus extra 7 items, which are listed below to form the “chem 14” panel:
- Total protein
- Bilirubin (total)
- Alkaline phosphatase
- ALT (alanine aminotransferase)
- AST (aspartate aminotransferase)
A comprehensive metabolic panel is sometimes necessary to check:
- Underlying health issues using high and low levels of calcium in the blood
- Liver problem using levels of the protein albumin, ALT and AST enzymes, and bilirubin
- Bone metabolism issues using levels of alkaline phosphatase.
Therefore, you should see Private Doctor London for more information about this blood test.
Lipid (cholesterol) panel:
Cholesterol types plus other related fats in the bloodstream will measure in this blood test. The following typically make up the panel:
- Total cholesterol
- High-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol (aka good cholesterol)
- Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol (aka bad cholesterol)
Patients taking this test sometimes should not to eat (fast) before the test to avoid measuring a falsely low LDL level. However, most recently, experts have said fasting isn’t necessary as the difference in result isn’t significant.
Lipid panels sometimes check for:
- Risk of cardiovascular disease
- Abnormally high total or LDL cholesterol levels
A private blood test in London will give you more information about this test.
6 more blood tests for older adults
Thyroid function tests:
Issues with the thyroid gland or measurement of dosage of thyroid replacement medication are this test’s function. Thus, the typical tests used for this are:
- Thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH)
- Free thyroxine (FT4 or “free T4”)
Where there is complex condition, the doctor may order other tests related to thyroid function.
Thyroid function test checks for:
- Problems with the thyroid gland in older adults
- Symptoms of thyroid issues using TSH levels
- Thyroid hormone issue using free T4
Tests related to vitamin B12 levels:
Using the methylmalonic acid and vitamin B12 tests, the serum levels of vitamin B12 will measure to know if it’s sufficient for the body. But, you must know that deficiency of this vitamin in older adults will require further testing to know the underlying condition.
However, these tests check for:
- Deficiency of vitamin B12 and its causes including fatigue, difficulty walking, etc
Glycated haemoglobin (Haemoglobin A1C):
A combination of blood sugar and haemoglobin in red blood cells form glycated haemoglobin, which is a normal body activity. However, increased blood sugar levels will elevate glycated haemoglobin. Diabetes is possible to detect by a test result showing 6.5% or higher.
Therefore, uses of this test include:
- To monitor the control of blood sugar in diabetic patients
- To assess diabetes or prediabetes
Prothrombin time (PT) and International Normalised Ratio (INR):
These tests measure the speed of blood clotting. So, patients taking the blood-thinner warfarin must regularly monitor this condition.
However, uses of these tests include:
- To measure INR levels (between 2.0 and 3.0 is normal)
- To evaluate abnormal bleeding, chronic infections, or the ability of the liver to process factors that clot blood
Brain natriuretic peptide (BNP) test:
Contrary to what the test refers to, it relates to heart function, not the brain. The failure of the heart to effectively pump blood (heart failure) will raise BNP levels. However, another test that can be, but isn’t regularly, used for this check is the N-terminal pro-B-type natriuretic peptide (NT-proBNP) test.
Uses of this test include:
- Diagnose of new or critical heart failure
- Evaluation of patients having shortness of breath
- To keep an eye on a patient’s heart failure and response to treatment
The body’s iron content links to its serum ferritin levels. Therefore,extra tests should order if the iron levels of an older adult require more assessment.
Uses of this test include:
- To help diagnose anaemia
- To check the cause of elevated ferritin levels like inflammation
However, older adults can undergo more tests than the above, but these are the most common essential blood tests.
Helpful tips to make the most out of your blood tests and results
Know the purpose of the blood test before order:
Ask your doctor what is the purpose of the test. Is it to diagnose a symptom, check if you’re responding to treatment, or monitor a severe health condition?
Accordingly, a knowledge of this will give a clear understanding of your health problem.
Generally, blood tests should order to examine the side effects of certain medications, diagnose a symptom causing concern, or monitor a severe disease.
Sometimes, it’s okay to order blood tests for screening. This means the patient is asymptomatic, and the test is necessary to diagnose a few conditions.
Request that your doctor reviews and explains the test results:
Kindly go over the report with your doctor and ask enough questions, especially when the lab says your result is abnormal.
However, it’s possible that a patient has mild to moderate anaemia and doesn’t know even when previous tests have revealed it.
Sometimes, doctors don’t inform patients of mild abnormalities because they may feel the patient is aware if it has been consistent. Or probably, the patient wasn’t paying attention when the doctor mentioned it.
Ask your doctor to explain the difference between your current and previous results:
As always, lab reports do provide a “normal” reference range. However, it helps to know the comparison between new and old results.
Therefore, it is important to detect a condition that needs immediate attention.
Ask for copies of your test results and store them safely:
Medical history usually looks at past test results to understand the health condition better.
Though the clinic may provide this, having your own copies is good as you can present them to a new doctor if you switch medical care providers, relocate, or have a health emergency.
However, it’s always better seeking faster and convenient to dig into your archive and get test results. Your information on a clinic’s patients portal will erase naturally if you don’t use the service anymore.
Older patients can get private blood testing in London. So, reach out to us today for more information.