Benjamin Franklin put it best: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. That axiom works in just about every aspect of life, but when it comes to your health, it’s a phrase worth living (longer and healthier) by. One of the best preventative tests you and your doctor can do to make sure you are in good physical condition is a blood test. So what kind of blood tests should you and your doctor look into? What tests can give you an early heads-up about potential health problems?
Complete Blood Count (CBC)
A CBC is an all-purpose blood test that casts a wide net in terms of markers for your overall health. It checks for things like red and white blood cell counts, platelets and plasma. A CBC can tell your doctor whether your blood is able to do its job and check for illnesses like anemia or leukemia. If you bruise and tire easily, or suffer from weakness, fatigue, or inflammation, you might want to talk to your doctor about a CBC to check for underlying, undiagnosed illnesses. If you currently undergo treatment for a blood disorder, your doctor might schedule routine CBCs.
Hepatitis is a disease of the liver. It causes swelling of the liver, which prevents the liver from functioning fully. This can lead to fatigue, jaundice, headache and stomach issues. Hepatitis comes in five forms:
- Hepatitis A and E come from ingesting infected food or drink, though Hepatitis E primarily occurs in Asia, India, Africa, and Mexico. They can be treated with medication but normally sorts itself out.
- Hepatitis B is transferred during sex, and between mother and child in childbirth.
- Hepatitis D is an escalated version of B and makes the disease more severe.
- C is contracted through blood exposure like tattoos and intravenous drugs.
Hepatitis is detected through a simple blood test. If you test positive, your doctor will want to begin treatment immediately. If you think you could have been exposed to hepatitis, ask your doctor to be tested.
Tuberculosis is an infectious bacterial illness affecting the lungs. It’s a serious illness; untreated TB can be fatal. TB can spread through the bloodstream to the spine, brain, liver, kidneys and heart. TB presents with coughing, weight loss, fever, and fatigue. Those infected with TB are more prone to infecting the people they spend the most time with, like those in their home or co-workers. Not all TB is symptomatic; those with latent TB carry the bacteria in their bodies. It may become active later. A simple TB blood test can check for both active and latent TB. TB is a serious illness, so it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Blood sugar tests can help doctors check for diabetes or signs of diabetes in their patients. For patients with diabetes, blood sugar tests can also make sure their illness is under control and properly medicated. Blood sugar tests measure the amount of glucose in the blood. Diabetes patients can test their own blood sugar levels with a finger-prick test, but in a doctor’s office, they’ll use a blood draw to test blood sugar. Your doctor may ask you to fast before the test, usually for 12 hours.
Catching signs of diabetes early in patients, and monitoring blood sugar for diabetic patients, is incredibly important. Diabetes can lead to widespread problems in patients, including heart disease, nerve damage, circulation problems, and vision impairment or blindness.
Thyroid-Stimulating Hormone Test
A doctor might order a thyroid test for a handful of reasons: fatigue, rapid heartbeat, change in appetite or weight, brittle hair or nails, and weakness. Those are symptoms of hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism. Both illnesses are easily treatable with hormones. Like any other changes in your usual health, if you notice any of these symptoms it’s a good idea to pop into the doctor’s office for a blood test.