What Does My Blood Test Mean?
Part of living healthy is getting a regular check-up. Every year I have a physical and my doctor takes blood as part of the procedure. A week or so later I get the results.
I look at the numbers intently, expecting to have some sort of revelation about their meaning. After about a minute I hand them back to my doctor and ask, "how does it look?" Blood test results might as well be printed in a foreign language for all the good they do me.
I realized I may not be alone. There are probably a lot of people who don't know what all those numbers mean. I decided to make a chart to understand more about what doctors are looking for.
On the left I grouped the various items that would be tested, followed by typical "normal" ranges and then a brief description of what that item is or does. The last two columns are to give you an idea of what doctors are looking for when the numbers are lower or higher than the reference ranges.
The SMALL version prints out sideways on two 8.5 x 11 inch sheets of paper.
The LARGE version prints out sideways on four 8.5 x 11 inch sheets of paper.
Remember that your particular results will only make sense when considered along with your personal medical history. Your doctor is trained to consider all that information. This chart is not designed to diagnose any disease. The goal is to give you a little bit clearer idea what all those numbers mean.
You also need to know that some labs may have different reference ranges than appear on this chart. Because of the variety of testing methods and equipment, you should always follow the reference ranges provided on your test results.
Don't panic if you see something that's out of range. Several things can affect your results including your age, sex, time of day for the test, if you ate or drank before the test, smoking, your stress levels, physical activity levels or if you're pregnant. Even the way a lab technician handles your blood sample or getting tested when you have a sunburn can alter the final results. Your doctor will be able to fill you in on the details.
We've posted two versions of the chart online. They're both in Adobe PDF format. The SMALL version prints out sideways on two 8.5 x 11 inch sheets of paper. The LARGE version prints out sideways on four 8.5 x 11 inch sheets of paper. You'll need to tape the large one together to use it, but the print is much larger.
We've tried to be thorough, but mistakes can slip through. If you see something wrong, please send us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and let us know the problem. Put in the subject line: WHAT DOES MY BLOOD TEST MEAN.
Want to get details? Here are a couple more websites that give MORE information on individual results.