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Know Your Numbers

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Forget the actual process for getting your blood drawn, figuring out what your lab results mean can be just as scary and overwhelming! With so many acronyms, numbers and ranges, it can be difficult to keep track of your health levels.

Many blood lab results come in different formats, revealing different results. Riva Rahl, MD, a Cooper Clinic preventive medicine physician, walks us through what your numbers mean and what range you should be in. After all, these are some of the most important numbers you need to know about your health.

Lipid Panel
Cholesterol and triglycerides measure the concentrations of fats in the bloodstream. Triglycerides are essential for proper nerve function, but high levels can cause atherosclerosis. Total cholesterol symbolizes all the kinds of fats in your blood, both good and bad. These values are important factors in determining risk of cardiovascular disease. They are usually affected by exercise, diet and weight, although they can be hereditary.

  • Total Cholesterol – Ideal range is 130-200
  • HDL (“Good” cholesterol) – Ideal is >45 (men); >55 (women)
  • LDL (“Bad” cholesterol) – Ideal is <100 (may depend on other risk factors)
  • Triglycerides – Ideal is <125

Glucose is your blood sugar and comes from carbohydrate foods. It’s the main source of energy used in the body and is somewhat increased after you eat. Levels that remain high may indicate diabetes or pre-diabetes and cause damage to your eyes, nerves, kidneys and blood vessels.

  • Glucose – Normal range: 74-99; Prediabetes: 100-125; Diabetes:126 or higher

Kidney Function
Blood area nitrogen (BUN) and creatinine are waste products passed by your kidneys. Mild elevations are common and often due to dehydration or medications such as NSAIDs (Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications), but elevated numbers can indicate kidney impairment.

  • BUN – Reference range is 9-24 (men); 8-25 (women)
  • Creatinine – Reference range is <1.2 (men); <1.1 (women)

Bone Metabolism
Calcium is the most abundant mineral in the body. The blood level of calcium may be normal even in individuals who do not get enough calcium in the diet. In fact, to provide adequate calcium for the muscles and heart, the body will utilize calcium from the bone, reducing bone density. Therefore it is important to discuss your calcium needs with your physician instead of relying upon your blood calcium level. Vitamin D is also important as low levels are associated with poor bone mineralization and increased risk of certain cancers as well as autoimmune diseases, type II diabetes and heart disease.

Note: Vitamin D is included in Cooper Clinic lab results; many clinics do not include vitamin D results and you will need to request it.

  • Calcium – Reference range is 8.5-10.1 (men); 8.4-10.2 (women)
  • Vitamin D – Deficient: <30; Ideal: >40

Blood Count
White blood cells (WBC) fight infection and respond to inflammation. A high count usually means there is infection in the body. Red blood cells (RBC) carry oxygen to your tissues and carbon dioxide to your lungs. An elevated count could mean dehydration, and a low count could be a sign of anemia. Hemoglobin (HGB) and hematocrit (HCT) are also indices of red blood cell function; low values may indicate anemia. Platelets keep your blood “sticky” and a low count may cause easy bleeding or bruising whereas a very high count may make you more prone to a blood clot.

  • WBC – Reference range is 4.0-10.9
  • RBC – Reference range is 4.69-6.10 (men); 4.04-5.48 (women)
  • HGB – Reference range is 14.0-18.0 (men); 12.0-16.0 (women)
  • HCT – Reference range is 41.5-54.5 (men); 35.5-49.0 (women)

Knowing these numbers provide a perfect start to a healthy lifestyle. Should you have any questions about these numbers, contact your physician. Visit the Cooper Clinic website for more information or call 972.560.2667.