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Blood Test Results: The Definitive Guide to Understanding Your Numbers

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blood-test-guide

So you received your most recent blood test results from your doctor, but what do all of the numbers mean and how can you better understand the common lab tests? We’ve got you covered.

With the variety of blood tests available today, you probably need insight as to which ones would provide you with the best possible information.

Aside from the standard lipid panel and blood sugar tests that your doctor will order, there are additional blood tests that you should be able to easily interpret so that you can better determine if there are areas of your health that need more attention. The common blood tests listed in the chart below are among the most helpful to understand, but keep scrolling to see guides to many other lab tests, such as white blood cell readings and cholesterol/lipid panels. We know that understanding medical jargon can be frustrating, so we hope you find this helpful.

Blood Test Guide

TestHealthy RangeIdeal Level
Fasting blood glucose70 – 99 mg/dLBetween 80 and 90 mg/dL
Fasting insulinBelow 8 μIU/mlBelow 3 μIU/ml
Hemoglobin A1C (HbA1C)4.8 – 5.6 percentBelow 5.4 percent
Homocysteine5 to 15 μmol/LBelow 8 μmol/L
C-reactive protein0.0 – 3.0 mg/LBelow 2.0 mg/L
Vitamin D (25-hydroxyvitamin D)30 – 80 ng/mL50 – 80 ng/mL

Blood Test Measurement Guide

UnitMeaning
ng/dLnanograms per deciliter
mg/dLmilligrams per deciliter
mg/Lmilligrams per liter
μIU/mlmicro international units per milliliter
μmol/Lmicro moles per liter

How to Read Common Blood Tests (and What to Do If Your Results Indicate Risk)

Complete Blood Count (CBC): 

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Also sometimes labeled “Hematology,” this section provides a snapshot of your blood’s make up. Here’s the breakdown:

WBC: white blood cells, the cells that go into action for your immunity. Under WBC (or somewhere in the CBC write up), you may also see “differential count” which lists types of white blood cells physicians monitor.

Normal range:

Neutrophils40% to 60% of the total
Lymphocytes20% to 40%
Monocytes2% to 8%
Eosinophils1% to 4%
Basophils0.5% to 1%

 

MeasureDefinitionNormal Range
RBC (Red Blood Cell) Erythrocyte CountRed blood cells are the cells that carry oxygen and minerals throughout the body.4.2 to 5.9 million cmm
HemoglobinFound in red blood cells, hemoglobin is a protein that transports oxygen from the lungs to blood vessels throughout the body. Low levels of hemoglobin can reveal possible anemia.13.5 to 17.5 grams per deciliter for men, 12.0 to 15.5 grams per deciliter for women
HematocritHematocrit is a measurement of the volume percentage of red blood cells in the blood. This test can also be used to indicate potential anemia.38.8% to 50% for men, 34.9% to 44.5% for women
MCV (Mean Corpuscular Volume)This is a measurement of the average volume of red blood cells in the body. Levels outside of this range can reveal anemia or chronic fatigue syndrome.80 to 100 femtoliters
MCH (Mean Corpuscular Hemoglobin)This test reports the average amount of hemoglobin in each red blood cell. High levels can indicate anemia, and low levels can reveal a nutritional deficiency.27 to 32 picograms
MCHC (Mean Corpuscular Hemoglobin Concentration)This test is an indicator of the average amount of hemoglobin in a particular amount of red blood cells. Similar to the MCH test, a low percentage can signal anemia, while a high percentage can represent a nutritional deficiency.28% to 36%
RDW or RCDW (Red Cell Distribution Width)This measurement provides information about the size and shape of the body’s red blood cells. Numbers outside of this range could be indicative of anemia, a nutritional deficiency, liver disease and more.11% to 15%
Platelet CountThis test offers insight into the amount of platelets found in the bloodstream. An amount of platelets outside of this range can affect blood clotting and/or signify a health issue.38.8% to 50% for men, 34.9% to 44.5% for women

 

Metabolic Panel

The metabolic panel is a comprehensive blood test that evaluates organ function and checks for a wide variety of conditions including diabetes and kidney disease.

MeasureDefinitionHealthy Range
Total Protein (or A/G Ratio)The total protein test compares the levels of the two proteins in your blood, albumin and globulin. High protein levels can signal a potential health issue.A little over 1
AlbuminThis is a protein produced by the liver, so albumin levels can indicate liver or kidney conditions.3.9 to 5.0 g/dL
GlobulinProduced by the liver and immune system, globulin levels are indicators of autoimmune diseases.2.0 to 3.5 g/dL
Alkaline PhosphateElevated levels of this enzyme can signify liver or bone problems.44 to 147 IU/L
BilirubinThis measure offers insight about the health of the liver and kidneys.0.1 to 1.9 mg/dL
BUN (Blood Urea Nitrogen)Similar to bilirubin, this offers information about the liver and kidney functions, so increased levels of this measurement may reveal underlying problems in these organs.10 to 20 mg/dL
BUN/Creatinine RatioThis measure indicates if the kidneys are effectively eliminating waste. If creatinine levels are too high, this ratio can indicate reduced kidney function.10:1 to 20:1 (ratio may be slightly higher for men and the elderly)
CalciumHigh levels of calcium in the bloodstream can imply kidney issues, cancer and more.9.0 to 10.5 mg/dL
ChlorideIncreased levels of this mineral can signal an excessively acidic environment in the body, which can indicate an underlying issue such as dehydration or a kidney disorder.98 to 106 mEg/L
PhosphorusHigh phosphorus levels can represent kidney problems or issues with the parathyroid gland.2.4 to 4.1 mg/dL
PotassiumLow levels of this mineral can impair proper nerve functioning, cause irregular heartbeats and more.3.7 to 5.2 mEg/L
SodiumInconsistent sodium levels can indicate dehydration, problems with the adrenal glands, issues with the liver or kidneys, and more.135 to 145 mEg/L

 

Lipid Panel (or Lipid Profile)

The lipid panel determines one’s risk for heart concerns based on cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood.

Total Cholesterol

This is a measurement of a combination of both types of cholesterol, LDL (bad) and HDL (good).

HealthyBelow 200 mg/dL
Borderline High200 to 239 mg/dL
HighAbove 240 mg/dL

 

Triglycerides

Healthy range: 40 to 160 mg/dL

This test measures the amount of fats in the bloodstream. Levels that are too high can cause increased risk for heart disease.

HDL

HDL, or good cholesterol, wards off heart disease.

BestAbove 60 mg/dL
Good50 to 60 mg/dL
PoorBelow 40 mg/dL for men, below 50 mg/dL for women

 

LDL

LDL, or bad cholesterol, can clog the arteries and cause increased risk for heart disease.

Normal range:

OptimalBelow 100 mg/dL
Near Optimal100 to 129 mg/dL
Borderline High130 to 159 mg/dL
High160 to 189 mg/dL
Very HighAbove 189 mg/dL

Other Important Tests and Why You Should Take Them

Fasting Blood Glucose Test

What Is Fasting Blood Glucose?

A fasting blood glucose test is intended to establish one’s risk for diabetes. Because blood glucose levels normally increase after you eat, a fasting blood glucose test measures your blood glucose levels after you spend 8 hours without eating so that a baseline measurement can be recorded without the influence of any food or beverages. This is why a fasting blood glucose test is usually done first thing in the morning — most have gone 8 hours without eating overnight.

Normal Fasting Blood Glucose Range

Fasting blood glucose will fall somewhere in one of three ranges:

70 mg/dL – 100 mg/dL A fasting blood glucose level lower than 100 mg/dL (5.6 mmol/L) usually means that your levels are normal. For those below 100 mg/dL, the ideal level is between 80 and 90 mg/dL.
100 mg/dL – 125 mg/dLFasting blood glucose levels that are anywhere between 100 and 125 mg/dL (5.6 to 6.9 mmol/L) are considered higher than normal, and usually indicate presence of a condition known as prediabetes, something one in three Americans have but are unaware of it.
126 mg/dL or HigherA measurement of 126 mg/dL or higher is a red flag, and your doctor will likely order another test to make sure it wasn’t a fluke. If fasting blood glucose is higher than 126 mg/dL on two separate tests, it is likely that diabetes has developed and needs to be properly managed.

 

How to Lower Blood Sugar

Maintaining a healthy diet and exercising several times a week are the best paths to prevention. There are also several foods that can lower blood sugar naturally. To maintain a healthy blood sugar balance, try adding a cinnamon supplement to your daily routine. Research has shown that cinnamon has the ability to balance blood sugar and combat insulin resistance. Another all nutrient to consider is berberine. In several clinical trials, berberine effectively stabilized blood sugar by activating a regluatory enzyme known as adenosine monophosphate-activated protein kinase, or AMPK. One study author even noted that berberine ability to regulate blood sugar was identical to that of a commonly prescribed drug.

Fasting Insulin Test

What Is Fasting Insulin? 

Since insulin is the key hormone needed to usher sugar out of the blood and into cells, it’s critical your body produce it efficiently and use it effectively. Similar to the process of a fasting blood glucose test, the fasting insulin test is checking for an accurate read on insulin levels after 8 hours of fasting. The fasting insulin test can not only determine if insulin resistance is occurring – which would indicate type II diabetes, but can also detect things like the development of an insulin-producing tumor.

Normal Fasting Insulin Range

Resistance to insulin means it is more difficult for your body to regulate blood glucose levels. Your test results reveal fasting insulin between:

3–8 uIU/mLYou show no insulin resistance if your test results reveal fasting insulin between 3–8 uIU/mL, which is a healthy range.
Greater than 8 uIU/mLYou have slight insulin resistance if you have fasting insulin is greater than 8 uIU/mL.
Greater than 10 uIU/mLYou show moderate insulin resistance if you have fasting insulin greater than 10 uIU/mL.
Greater than 12 uIU/mLYou have severe insulin resistance if you have fasting insulin greater than 12 uIU/mL.

 

How to Reverse Insulin Resistence and Improve Insulin Sensitivity

Lifestyle changes that promote insulin sensitivity and stand to reverse type II diabetes are things like daily exercise, consuming a Mediterranean-inspired diet and taking supplements known to increase sensitivity such as berberine, chromium or cinnamon.

To learn more about the nutrients and spices known to support normal blood sugar ranges, check out this article.

Hemoglobin A1C (HbA1C) Test

What Is Hemoglobin A1C? 

Hemoglobin is the protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen. Based on the physical attachment between glucose and hemoglobin, and not to be confused with a test for iron, this test shows how well your body is controlling your blood glucose levels.

Normal Hemoglobin A1C Range

Your hemoglobin levels will fall into one of the following ranges:

5.4% or BelowAround 5.4% or below is ideal.
4.8% – 5.6%The normal range for the hemoglobin A1c test is 4.8% – 5.6 %.
5.7% – 6.4%Levels between 5.7% and 6.4% indicate increased risk of diabetes
6.5% or HigherLevels of 6.5% or higher indicate diabetes.

 

For those who have diabetes, the goal is a hemoglobin A1c less than 7%. The higher the levels, the higher the risk for complications associated with diabetes.

Homocysteine Test

What Is Homocysteine? 

Homocystine is an amino acid that is converted into either methionine, where it helps to biosynthesize proteins, or — with the help of some B-vitamins — into cysteine, where it can participate in enzymatic reactions or protein synthesis.

A homocysteine test is performed for two reasons:

  1. To evaluate any potential risk for heart complications.
  2. To determine if a person has folic acid deficiency or vitamin B12 deficiency.

When homocysteine is high, it could mean that the conversion to cysteine isn’t taking place, indicating that perhaps nutrients like folic acid and B12 are low. Often times homocysteine will rise before symptoms of these deficiencies appear.

On the other side of the coin, a homocysteine test can gauge one’s risk for heart trouble; it is considered by experts a risk factor for coronary artery disease. Over time, elevated homocysteine levels can result in endothelial injury or blood vessel inflammation.

Homocysteine Levels

Here’s how to interpret your homocystine test results:

GoodBelow 8 μmol/L
NormalBetween 5 μmol/L and 15 μmol/L
HighAbove 15 μmol/L

 

How To Lower Homocysteine

B vitamins such as B6, B12 and folate may be used to lower homocysteine, however, since elevated homocysteine is also associated with increased cardiovascular risk, precautions for these potential health concerns should also be exercised as well.

Need more information. Here’s everything you need to know about homocysteine.

C-Reactive Protein/Inflammation Test

A C-Reactive Protein Test is used to test the level of inflammation in your body, helping your physician better determine your risk for heart disease or stroke.

What Is C-Reactive Protein?

CRP is a protein that is made in the liver and released in response to inflammation in the body. And while inflammation anywhere in the body is a cry for help, inflammation of the heart is especially dangerous.

Many medical professionals believe this biomarker for inflammation more reliably signals heart or vascular trouble than any other test. In fact, in recent years, inflammation in the body has been dubbed the “silent killer,” as it is thought to be a hallmark of several preventable diseases. (And ladies should be especially in tune with this test — studies have found that CRP is often more effective than lipid tests at predicting cardiovascular issues in women.)

Click here to read more about C-Reactive Protein and how inflammation can destroy overall health.

Normal C-Reactive Protein Level

The following levels determine your risk of developing cardiovascular disease:

Low Risk1 mg/L
Average RiskBetween 1 mg/L and 3 mg/L
High RiskHigher than 3 mg/L

 

How To Lower Inflammation in the Body

But these are just a few examples. Nature has provided several nutrients that can help reduce body-wide inflammation and 10 of them are particularly effective. Click here to learn about 10 anti-inflammatory supplements that work.

Vitamin D (25-Hydroxyvitamin D) Test

On your blood test results, you’ll likely see the vitamin D test listed as the “25-hydroxy vitamin D” or “25(OH)D Test.” This test is used to determine how much vitamin D is circulating in your blood — and if you’re like 95% of Americans, chances are your vitamin D numbers came back low.

Sadly, the sure signs of a vitamin D deficiency don’t surface until it’s too late, which is why it’s so important to supplement with vitamin D3 (not D2), and get your vitamin D tested annually.

Vitamin D Levels

Here are the levels of vitamin D and what they signify:

Very HealthyBetween 50 ng/mL and 80 ng/mL
HealthyBetween 30 ng/mL and 80 ng/mL
InsufficientBetween 21 ng/mL and 29 ng/mL
Vitamin D DeficientBelow 20 ng/mL

 

How To Fix Low Vitamin D

The very best way to dodge the dangerous health complications associated with insufficient vitamin D is to take a vitamin D3 supplement and get your vitamin D tested annually. It’s best to start by supplementing with 5,000 IU of vitamin D3 daily to raise your levels.

Can I Get a Vitamin D Home Test?

Many home tests for vitamin D are reliable, but they shouldn’t replace regular check-ins with your physician.

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