The start of a new year is a great reminder to schedule an annual physical exam. You’ll get a chance to talk to your doctor about your general health and any concerns you might have, and can get a physical workover–including blood work.
The problem, of course, is that most of us don’t know what any of the letters and numbers on those blood work results mean. It’s valuable knowledge to have, because the results can help you figure out if you have issues with your thyroid, whether or not you might have a condition like anemia, or where your diet might be lacking in nutrients.
A comprehensive metabolic panel is a group of blood tests that gives an overall picture of the chemistry and metabolic balance in your body. It can be ordered by your physician or naturopath, or you can “do-it-yourself” with a mail order blood work kit from companies like Hemavault. The test provides values for important nutrients like calcium and potassium, and the overall results give an idea of how your organ systems are working.
Here are some of the measurements you’ll find in a comprehensive metabolic panel, what they mean, and what you can do to change them for the better.
According to Medline Plus, a normal blood measurement for calcium is 8.5 to 10.9 mg/dL or milligrams per deciliter. Whatever your number, about half of that calcium is attached to proteins like albumin, which can make the results of this test confusing. Sometimes further testing is needed regarding calcium, and simpler tests like our survey can also help you determine your need for extra calcium.
There are reasons other than a general physical that could lead your doctor to advise a blood test for calcium levels, including if you have signs of conditions like some cancers, certain bone diseases, and chronic kidney disease. And lower-than-normal levels could be the result of things like magnesium or vitamin D deficiency or low blood levels of albumin, while higher-than-normal levels could be because of extended periods of bed rest or hyperthyroidism. If you have any concerns about your results, speak to a medical professional.
Most of us don’t consider whether or not we’re getting enough chloride, but it’s actually an important electrolyte. Chloride works with other electrolytes, including potassium and sodium, to maintain the body’s level of fluids and acid-base balance. A normal result for chloride is 96 to 106 milliequivalents per liter. A result that indicates too much chloride is in the blood could result from dehydration, vomiting, or Addison’s disease, and a too-high result could be caused by acidosis or diahhrea.
Another electrolyte, a metabolic panel measures the amount of potassium in the blood plasma. This nutrient is important for helping bones and nerves communicate and is important for the movement of substances in and out of cells. Bananas are potassium powerhouses, but the mineral is also found in celery and potatoes. While testing for potassium is a standard part of a metabolic panel, your blood levels may also be tested if you have signs of cardiovascular problems like high blood pressure or irregular heartbeat–potassium is very important for heart function and even slight changes in your levels can have a negative effect. The normal range for potassium is 3.7 to 5.2 milliequivalents per liter.
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