Health and Wellness Testing Overview
Reviewed By: Dr. Kurt Kloss, MD
Last Reviewed Date: May 30, 2019
Last Modified Date: May 30, 2019
Published Date: Jul 29, 2017
70% Of Medical Decisions Are Based On Lab Results
Knowing the data within your body, the same data that doctors use to make treatment and medical decisions, is important. If you are looking to take control of your own health, Health Testing Centers is here for you. We offer an extensive menu of the same lab tests your doctor orders, from the same labs (LabCorp and Quest Diagnostics).
Below are a selection of lab tests and discount packages that measure general wellness, providing an excellent baseline of your health. The easy to understand results will help you make decisions about your health or you can share them with your doctor. These are the same results you get when visiting your doctor and using your health insurance. Health Testing Centers just makes it easy to order them on your own with low cash prices and no doctor visit needed. View sample health and wellness test results with lab variations, ranges and explanations HERE.
What Can Blood Tests Detect?
The answer to that question depends largely upon the blood tests ordered. However, in general, blood tests look for or measure specific markers that provide information that help medically evaluate a person's health status.
- Measure cholesterol levels: HDL (good cholesterol), LDL (bad cholesterol) and triglycerides
- Discover proteins, bacteria, antigens or other substances that indicate various infections, diseases or cancers.
- Measure levels of critical hormones to assess the function of glands, organs and bodily systems.
- Measure the blood level of certain body chemicals to assess the health of the heart and circulatory system.
- Analyze and measure blood cells to detect conditions like anemia and other blood-related diseases and conditions.
- Assess nutritional status, measuring levels of essential vitamins, minerals and other nutrients.
- Screen for and/or monitor diabetes and other metabolic syndromes.
- Detect genetic issues that threaten or directly impact health, among many other detection purposes.
What Your Cholesterol Levels Mean?
When your LDL cholesterol levels are high, there are generally no symptoms. So, it is wise to test your cholesterol levels regularly. Cholesterol Testing can help you pinpoint any possible health issue you are or might be facing, which will allow you to make informed decisions. Testing cholesterol levels is not a complicated thing to do. You just need one simple blood test. When analyzing your blood, a cholesterol test measures your HDL (good cholesterol) levels, LDL (bad cholesterol) levels and Triglyceride levels. Your total cholesterol levels will also be given in the report. If you were not fasting before doing the test; then, only your HDL and total cholesterol levels will still be accurate. In the test, values are normally given as mg per deciliter.
Is a total cholesterol of 6.4 high?
A value of 6.4 can be considered acceptable for healthy individuals that do not have risk factors such as obesity, high blood pressure, and smoking among others. So, some might have relatively high cholesterol levels but still be at low risks for heart disease. These would be healthy men and women with no family history of coronary disease. For those who had previous heart attacks or strokes, they should aim to keep their cholesterol levels lower than 4 mmol/l.
The average total cholesterol level is set to be around 5.7 mmol/l. When analyzing the levels of a lipid panel, one has to be aware of the different categories and their relevant risks.
- Having your cholesterol levels at or below 5 mmol/l is considered ideal.
- Levels between 5 and 6.4 mmol/l are considered high, while between 6.5 mmol/l and 7.8 mmol/l are counted as very high levels.
- Anything above 7.8 mmol/l is considered a very elevated level and requires medical attention.
When analyzing your levels, you ought to understand the many factors one has to take into account. For example, you have to take a look at your HDL/LDL ratio. Also, your results have to be added to the possible risk factors you might have, in order to assess your true danger or safety level based on your total Cholesterol.
Your cholesterol levels are affected by many factors. Men and women have different ranges for what is considered normal recommended values. HDL levels are generally higher in women than men. Also, heart diseases progress differently between them; and, their symptoms exacerbate in different ways. That’s why women become at risk for heart diseases a decade after men, and more specifically after menopause. It is only after the age of 75 years that their risk (men and women) become equal. Age has also an effect on cholesterol in both men and women. As we grow older, so do our blood vessels and cholesterol levels tend to rise.
What is a normal cholesterol level?
In order to understand the values obtained from the test, you have to know the normal ranges. According to the Journal of the American College of Cardiology (JACC) guideline published in 2018, when it comes to total cholesterol levels, numbers should be lower than 200 milligrams per deciliter. If your values are between 200 and 239; then, you are borderline high/ If they are higher than 240 mg/dl; then your cholesterol levels are high and you need to seek medical attention.
For LDL levels, your values should be lower than 100 mg/dl. In case the values are between 100 and 129 mg/dL; then they would be considered good for healthy individuals; but, problematic for those with heart issues. Values above 130 mg/dL are borderline high and this is when the risk for heart illness starts.
While you are always advised to keep your LDL and Total cholesterol levels low; you have to keep your HDL levels high to keep your heart safe. For example, if your values are below 40 mg/dL; then you are at high risk for heart disease. The optimal range for your HDL should be higher than 60 mg/dL. Values are slightly different for men and women.
Cholesterol testing is very important to maintain a good wellbeing a heart health. Years of research and practice do link high cholesterol levels to many health conditions. Recently, a new study even showed a correlation between high cholesterol levels (LDL) and Parkinson’s disease.
How often do you get blood tests?
Blood tests are very common. Most individuals get numerous blood tests throughout their lives. Whether you need to go for it as a general preventative check-up; or, to assess a certain illness, your blood can tell you what you are looking for. Some tests are even used to assess how well a treatment is performing. Blood tests can explain about the physiological and biochemical status of your body as well as your organ functions. It can detect a disease or assess a certain risk factor for an illness. A complete blood test is advised to be done yearly as a form of primary prevention. When you set your mind to schedule it yearly, you will feel empowered. You will feel that being ahead of the game is what you need; and, you will be rewarding yourself with a better quality of life and a healthier future.
The lab tests recommended are different for every individual and depend on many factors like your age, medical history, family medical history and lifestyle. Some might be advised to take a certain test more often.
A CBC and CMP, for example, are part of a routine yearly checkup. Those on certain medications might be required to sit for specific tests every 4 or 6 months. Sexually active individuals are advised to get tested for STD’s regularly.
How often should I test my cholesterol?
Your age, gender and lifestyle determine how often you need to get your cholesterol levels tested. For example, for kids, it should be checked only once or twice before turning 18, unless they have risk factors that might put them at risk of having elevated levels.
According to the American Heart Association, any adult, after reaching 20 years of age, should test his cholesterol levels once every 4 to six years. Also, those who are older than 40 are expected to have their cholesterol levels checked every five years. These are the expectations for healthy individuals. You are recommended to check your levels more often (every year or less) if you are considered to be at higher risks, meaning that you:
- Have a family history of heart disease or other heart conditions linked to high cholesterol levels
- Are overweight or obese
- Have high blood pressure
- Are following an unhealthy diet
- Are a smoker
- Have diabetes
- Are a man older than 45 years of age or a woman older than 55 years of age
- Have a sedentary lifestyle
- Are on medications to manage your cholesterol levels
- Had a past stroke or heart attack
Testing your cholesterol levels is essential for any age and gender. The test itself poses no risk or side effects; and, you will be able to drive yourself home after drawing the blood. If your levels are higher than normal, do not feel afraid or discouraged as you can easily bring your numbers down with a proper management plan. You may want to check with your primary care provider before making any decision.
What is the most common blood test?
Blood tests are essential in checking whether your body is functioning normally or not. They help both the individual and the doctor understand whether a person has a specific health condition; or, if the body’s organs are functioning properly. Tests also show how effective a treatment is.
According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, the CBC (complete blood count) is the most common blood test in the USA. It examines and analyzes your blood at a cellular level and provides the ratio of red to white blood cells, as well as the number of platelets in your blood. The CBC differential can even detect abnormal and immature cells by looking at the different types of white blood cells. A sample of your blood is withdrawn at a lab (by inserting a needle in your arm or hand) and the laboratory specialist will analyze a drop of it by smearing it with a dye. As for the number of cells, a manual blood count can be done by identifying both the number and shape of the cells on the smeared slide. But, nowadays, the count is done automatically by using machines that use electrical, laser and photodetection methods to provide you with the most accurate results.
The CBC test is requested as a part of any routine checkup. It can help you identify whether you have any blood condition like low iron in your blood (anemia), clotting problems, blood cancer, infections and disorders of the immune system. A CBC tests many indicators such as the red blood cells, the white blood tests, platelets, hemoglobin levels, hematocrit, as well as mean corpuscular volume; but, it is not a definitive diagnostic test. This means that a CBC is the initial step to check on your wellbeing. It does signal a possible malfunction; but, you will have to further your investigation by getting specialized tests done. Only after these latter, will your doctor be able to diagnose your condition. Think of the CBC as a placement test. If the results are all within the normal ranges, you are healthy; but, if they are abnormal, you will have to dig deeper. Many times, the CBC is accompanied by a blood smear test that can indicate the presence of a blood disorder.
What can a complete / full blood count tell you?
Every test can tell us a story about what is going on inside our bodies. When doing a complete blood count test with differential, you will be able to understand the health of the following cells in your body.
First, it counts your red blood cells. These are the ones in charge of transporting oxygen to your lungs and organs. When the levels are abnormal, this means that you could possibly have anemia, dehydration, bleeding or other forms of disorders.
Second, you will get your white blood cells count. These are in charge of fighting infections and illnesses. CBC measures these cells to detect abnormal levels that are a sign for infection, blood cancer, or a disorder of the immune system. When analyzing the different kinds of white blood cells, you have to know that an increase in one type can trigger a decrease in another; and, both will be due to the same health problem. In normal circumstances, our blood is made of 54 to 62% of neutrophils, 25 to 30% of lymphocytes, 0 to 9% of monocytes, 1 to 3% of eosinophils, and 1% of basophils. Let us take the neutrophils as an example, when the percentage is higher than normal, this means that you either have neutrophilia (a white blood cell disorder caused by infections, smoking or strenuous exercising), an acute infection (like a bacterial infection), stress, an inflammation (like IBS), tissue injury (due to trauma), chronic leukemia or even possibly pregnancy. A lower than normal number of neutrophils indicates possibly neutropenia (low production of neutrophils in the bone marrow), anemia (aplastic type that is the result of low production by the bone marrow), a severe bacterial or viral infection, or a result of undergoing chemotherapy or radiation therapy. A low number of lymphocytes can indicate bone marrow damages, HIV, tuberculosis, or hepatitis infection. It could also indicate an autoimmune disorder like lupus or rheumatoid arthritis; or, even a possible sepsis (severe infection). High count of basophils can indicate leukemia, inflammation or a possible food allergy.
Third, you will get a proper count on the platelets in your blood. These are the pieces that gather to form a clot when your blood vessel is broken. When they are not in normal ranges, they mean that you either have insufficient clotting (a bleeding disorder), or too much clotting (a thrombotic disorder).
Fourth, you will know the levels of your hemoglobin. This is the protein that is present in your blood cells and that contains iron. When the levels are out of range, you might be facing anemia, sickle cell, and other blood disorders. High levels of hematocrit can be indicative of diabetes.
Finally, the mean corpuscula volume that gives us the size of your red blood cells. The normal values of MCV after the age of 18 years should be between 78 and 98 cubic micrometers. Abnormal cells could indicate anemia or thalassemia. If the levels of MCV are higher than normal, this could indicate many illnesses such as liver disease. Liver cirrhosis and alcohol abuse can cause high levels of MCV. Also, thyroid problems (hypothyroidism) can lead to higher than normal levels of MCV. Finally, having deficiencies in Vitamin B 12 or folic acid can lead to an elevated count of MCV.
Your CBC Test
When you want a comprehensive status of your health and well-being, you need to know about your blood, which does everything from fighting infections to transporting oxygen through your body. A complete blood count (CBC) test gives you a clear, well-rounded understanding of your health and identifies a range of disorders and potential risks. Discover what a CBC test involves and when to get one. Also, find out what you can learn from such an important blood test.
Red Blood Cell Count
One of the most important aspects of a CBC is assessing your red blood cells, or erythrocytes. Red blood cells contain hemoglobin, a protein responsible for carrying oxygen to your body's tissues. Having the right number of red blood cells helps you get the optimal oxygen supply throughout your body, making your red blood cell count critical to your health.
Ideally, you want your count to be within the normal range for red blood cells, which varies slightly between men and women. Men typically have between 4.7 and 6.1 million red blood cells per microliter of blood, while women normally have 4.2 to 5.4 million per microliter. It's easy to assume that a red blood cell count below the normal range could lead to insufficient oxygen levels, while a higher count could mean more oxygen throughout your body. However, both high and low red blood cell counts can lead to complications and serious health issues.
In many cases, conditions like anemia, leukemia, thyroid disorders, or nutritional deficiencies can lower your red blood cell count below the normal range. This low red blood cell count can cause fatigue, dizziness, headaches, pale skin, increased heart rate, and other health issues. In contrast, smoking, congenital heart disease, kidney cancer, pulmonary fibrosis, and other serious conditions can increase your red blood cell count above the normal range. An overly high count can lead to joint pain, tender palms and soles, and difficulty sleeping.
If you notice any of the typical symptoms of a high or low red blood cell count, getting a CBC test could help you pinpoint the problem. If your CBC test reveals an abnormal red blood cell count, talk with your doctor about the cause and determine whether you'll need additional tests to get a proper diagnosis. In some cases, lifestyle changes such as quitting smoking, exercising more, and adopting a more nutritious diet can help you shift your red blood cell count back to a normal, healthy range.
Red Cell Distribution Width
As important as your red blood cell count is, you'll also want to know your red cell distribution width. This test assesses the volume and size of your red blood cells and measures the variation throughout your body. Since red blood cells should have an optimal size to carry sufficient oxygen to your tissues, taking a red cell distribution width blood test can tell you whether they are abnormally small or large. It could also indicate which impact it has on your health.
A red cell distribution width test is a standard part of the CBC test. However, you'll want to pay special attention to these values if you have symptoms like iron and vitamin deficiencies, dizziness and numbness, a family history of blood disorders, or a chronic illness like HIV or AIDS.
A normal red cell distribution width test should reveal red blood cells that measure between 6 to 8 micrometers in diameter. If your test values are higher than normal, there's a chance you have anemia, a nutrient deficiency disorder, blood disorders like thalassemia, liver disease, heart disease, or certain cancers. Ask your doctor to review the test results with you; and, find out if you need additional tests or treatment to address the abnormal results.
White Blood Cell Count
Although red blood cells make up a larger proportion of your blood, white blood cells are just as important to your health. Also known as leukocytes, white blood cells are responsible for keeping your body free from infections and invaders. They are responsible for attacking viruses, keeping bacteria out of your bloodstream, and preventing you from getting sick, but not all white blood cells are identical. Your body makes five different types that specialize in digesting bacteria, creating antibodies, destroying cancer cells, triggering allergic reactions, and many more immune-related tasks.
Like red blood cell count, normal white blood cell count varies slightly between men and women. Men typically have 5,000 to 10,000 white blood cells per microliter of blood, while women generally have 4,500 to 11,000 per microliter. Since most white blood cells have an average lifespan of only a few days, a white blood cell count outside of the normal range can indicate a problem with your bone marrow's ability to produce these cells or a serious illness that impacts your body's ability to maintain a healthy supply of these cells.
Both high and low white blood cell counts can indicate short-term or long-term health problems. Illnesses related to HIV or AIDS as well as cancer-related chemotherapy and radiation treatments can all cause low white blood cell counts. Infections, certain medicines, myeloproliferative disorder, and blood cancers such as leukemia and lymphoma can cause overly high white blood cell counts.
Whether your count is too high or too low, talk with your doctor about additional tests, physical exams, and other steps you should take to address the issue or any underlying conditions. In many cases, you'll need to complete white blood cell count tests routinely to make sure your body is producing and maintaining a healthy level of these cells.
White Blood Cell Differential Count
While your white blood cell count can reveal a lot about your health, you also need to check your white blood cell differential count. Although this count is a standard part of the CBC test, your doctor might request a white blood cell differential count specifically to assess whether you have a condition like anemia, leukemia, or a serious infection. This count measures the percentage of each of the five types of white blood cells to confirm that you have a healthy ratio of each.
A normal white blood cell differential count typically has the following percentages of each type of white blood cell:
- Basophils: 0.5 to 1 percent
- Eosinophils: 1 to 4 percent
- Lymphocytes: 20 to 40 percent
- Monocytes: 2 to 8 percent
- Neutrophils: 40 to 60 percent
- Young Neutrophils: 0 to 3 percent
Abnormally high or low white blood cell differential count can point to a wide range of conditions. For example, a high percentage of neutrophils may come from eclampsia or rheumatoid arthritis, while a low percentage of neutrophils may happen due to the flu or a serious bacterial infection. A high percentage of lymphocytes could indicate to mononucleosis or blood cancer, while a low percentage of lymphocytes may happen due to chemotherapy or sepsis. If your results are outside the normal range, consult with your doctor for additional testing and treatment.
A CBC test does not only mean counting red and white blood cells. This comprehensive test also assesses your platelet count. After all, platelets might be the smallest components of your blood, but these cell fragments have an important job. They respond to signals about cell damage, which prompts them to change shape as necessary, bind together, form clots, and stop bleeding.
Taking a CBC test can reveal whether your platelet count is within the normal range, which is between 150,000 and 450,000 platelets per microliter of blood. Like all components that make up your bloodstream, platelets should be within that normal range to keep you healthy. An overly low or high count can signal a serious condition.
Also known as thrombocytosis, a high platelet count can cause excessive and spontaneous blood clots in your vessels, which may lead to a heart attack or stroke. Whether bone marrow problems or ongoing conditions like anemia are the cause of your thrombocytosis, your doctor can suggest an effective course of action.
If you have a low platelet count, or thrombocytopenia, you could suffer from frequent bruising or bleeding. Issues ranging from medications and treatments to kidney infections and excessive alcohol consumption can lead to a low platelet count, and your doctor can advise about an appropriate resolution.
Mean Platelet Volume
An optimal platelet count is essential to good health; but, platelet volume and size are just as important. A mean platelet volume test checks the size of these tiny cell fragments, as this measurement impacts your platelets' ability to form clots.
A normal mean platelet volume is typically between 2.65 and 2.9 micrometers in diameter. Since larger platelets are usually younger, an abnormally high mean platelet volume may mean your body produces too many of these cell fragments. In contrast, an overly low result may mean that you are not producing enough new platelets, which could be linked to conditions like inflammatory bowel disease or certain types of anemia.
Although you should talk with your doctor about any CBC test abnormalities, it's important to know that a high or low mean platelet volume doesn't necessarily indicate a serious health concern. After all, lifestyle factors, like exercising frequently or living in a high-altitude location, can impact your platelet size and volume without causing a disorder or health issue. If your test results are outside the normal range, consult with your doctor. He will compare your mean platelet volume to your platelet count and other CBC test factors to determine whether you need treatment.
While red blood cells typically make up a large portion of your blood, it's important to get an exact measurement. That's why a CBC profile also includes a hematocrit test, which assesses the proportion of red blood cells to the total volume of blood in your body. Also known as a packed-cell volume test, this assessment is standard if you suspect that you might have anemia or if you have related symptoms like fatigue, dizziness, or pale skin.
Normal ranges for hematocrit tests change significantly as you age and undergo major life changes like pregnancy. Standard hematocrit levels for men are usually between 42 and 54 percent, while normal levels for women are between 38 and 46 percent.
A hematocrit level below the normal range could point to conditions like ulcers, internal bleeding, sickle cell anemia, cancer, or nutritional deficiencies. A high hematocrit level could indicate dehydration, overproduction of red blood cells, or congenital heart disease, but it may also result from living in a high-altitude place. If your hematocrit levels are high or low, ask your doctor whether you need treatment. In general, slightly abnormal levels don't require additional action, but extreme levels may suggest a serious health concern that demands urgent care.
Since hemoglobin is responsible for critical tasks such as moving oxygen throughout your body and exchanging carbon dioxide for oxygen, understanding your hemoglobin count is essential. A CBC test includes your hemoglobin count, which is typically between 14 and 18 grams per deciliter for men and between 12 to 16 grams per deciliter for women.
If your hemoglobin count is lower than the normal range, you are basically considered anemic. While anemia is not uncommon, it could result from a range of causes that include nutritional deficiencies, kidney failure, blood loss from ulcers or certain types of cancer, or bone marrow problems. No matter the cause of your low red blood cell count, you will want to talk with your doctor about treatments and additional steps to maintain your health. In some cases, you may also want to follow up about your risk for related conditions like Hodgkin's lymphoma, cirrhosis, or hypothyroidism.
A hemoglobin count that's higher than normal typically results from a body that is compensating for a lack of oxygen. Living at a high altitude and undergoing some temporary dehydration can both increase your hemoglobin count; so, can smoking. Your doctor can advise whether a high hemoglobin count is a cause for concern and whether you should take steps to address any related symptoms.
Mean Corpuscular Volume
When you order a CBC test, you'll also determine your mean corpuscular volume (MCV), a test that measures the average size of your red blood cells. While this test is a standard part of the CBC, your doctor may also recommend this test if you have symptoms like constant fatigue, unusually cold hands and feet, or abnormally pale skin. Since these indicators often result from blood disorders, an MCV test can help you understand the cause of your symptoms and assess possible treatments.
For adults, the normal MCV is between 80 and 96 femtoliters. A substantially lower result indicates that your red blood cells are unusually small, which could signal anemia or thalassemia, an inherited condition linked to anemia. A notably higher result indicates overly large red blood cells, which could signal that you have liver disease, hypothyroidism, or a B vitamin deficiency.
If your MCV is outside the normal range, your doctor will typically assess the results in relation to other factors like your hemoglobin and red blood cell count. From there, your physician may recommend additional testing to rule out serious conditions or prescribe a course of treatment for anemia.
Mean Corpuscular Hemoglobin
Sufficient hemoglobin is essential for healthy blood. A mean corpuscular hemoglobin (MCH) test, which is standard with a CBC test, can tell you exactly how much hemoglobin is present in each of your red blood cells. If your count is higher or lower than average, it will not be very obvious at first and you will not notice any symptoms. If your condition changes, or your levels do not improve over time, you may notice a loss of stamina, tiredness, dizziness, confusion, and weakness.
For adults, a normal mean corpuscular hemoglobin level is 27 to 33 picograms per cell. Conditions including macrocytic anemia, liver disease, overactive thyroid, cancer-related complications, and excessive alcohol consumption can all cause your MCH level to be higher than normal. Since these conditions can all have significant effects on your health, your doctor may suggest a treatment plan that incorporates strict changes to your diet.
A result below the normal range may indicate common issues like anemia, nutritional deficiencies, or some level of malnutrition. A low MCH level may also result from a related condition like celiac disease or excessive menstruation, both of which may lead to anemia. Depending on your health history and the potential causes of your low hemoglobin level, your doctor may recommend a vitamin or nutrition assessment, a diet or lifestyle change, or some other treatment.
Mean Corpuscular Hemoglobin Concentration
Closely related to your MCH level, your mean corpuscular hemoglobin concentration (MCHC) is a strong indicator of how healthy your hemoglobin is. This test reveals the average weight of your red blood cells' hemoglobin by comparing it against the volume of your red blood cells.
Like other components of the CBC test, MCHC test results that are above or below average can indicate a range of health problems. Most adults have an MCHC value between 33.4 and 35.5 grams per deciliter. Low MCHC levels could suggest anemia, which may be related to issues like Crohn's disease or celiac disease, as well as more rare conditions like parasitic infections or certain cancers. If your test results suggest one of these issues, your doctor may recommend additional blood tests or an endoscopy, or perhaps will suggest treatments that address low iron levels or excessive blood loss.
If your MCHC levels are higher than average, you may have autoimmune hemolytic anemia, especially if you have symptoms like chest pain, abdominal discomfort, weakness, or fainting. These results could also signal a condition like hereditary spherocytosis, which includes symptoms such as jaundice and gallstones. Your doctor will likely reference the rest of your CBC test and consider your health and family history before making a diagnosis or creating a treatment plan.
Indicators of Health Problems
By assessing many components of your blood, a CBC test can be incredibly helpful in detecting potentially serious health problems. Although a CBC doesn't always provide a direct diagnosis for conditions or disorders, this test can alert your doctor to health issues and offer a roadmap for additional testing and diagnosis. Since your CBC test reflects both your results and the average range, you can easily determine whether your blood is considered normal or if you may have a health concern.
While a CBC test most often identifies anemia and related conditions, it can also enable your doctor to pinpoint debilitating infections, life-threatening problems with your bone marrow, or blood cancers like leukemia. This test can alert your doctor of internal bleeding or conditions that prevent your body from producing a sufficient quantity of platelets or blood cells. If you have common symptoms like fatigue and weakness, a CBC test can help your medical team find the root cause. Your CBC test can also reveal important vitamin and nutrient deficiencies and help you correct them before they cause long-term effects.
What does High MCH Results in your Blood Test mean?
MCH stands for Mean Corpuscular Hemoglobin, and is a calculation of the average amount of hemoglobin contained in each of a person's red blood cells. Hemoglobin is the substance that carries oxygen from the lungs, to the cells through the bloodstream. Abnormally high or low levels of MCH, as determined by blood testing, can be an indication of a number of problems in the body, ranging from nutrient deficiencies to chronic diseases.
The MCH blood test is done as a component of a blood test called a Complete Blood Count (CBC), which evaluates the composition of the blood, checking hematocrit, white blood cells (WBC) and platelets as well as hemoglobin and red blood cells (RBC). It is usually required to get an overview of one’s general health. MCH is not measured directly, but calculated based on the hemoglobin value (Hgb), which is the total measure of hemoglobin in the blood; and the RBC, which is the number of red blood cells in the blood. To calculate MCH, the Hgb is divided by RCB, yielding an average amount of hemoglobin per red blood cell. Normal levels of MCH are between 26 and 33 picograms (pg) of hemoglobin per RBC.
What Is High MCH and What Can It Mean?
MCH levels over 34 pg are generally considered abnormally high. The most common reason for high MCH is macrocytic anemia, which is a blood disorder in which the body fails to produce enough red blood cells. In macrocytic anemia, red blood cells that are produced are larger than usual, each carrying more hemoglobin than normal-sized cells would. This condition can be caused by deficient levels of vitamin B-12 or folic acid in the body; nutrients found in foods like fish, liver, green leafy vegetables and fortified cereals. These contribute to efficient red blood cell production and may be lacking in your diet, you may not be able to absorb them or there may be other reasons your body cannot process them. Symptoms of macrocytic anemia can include:
- Unexplained fatigue
- Heart palpitations
- Heart complications
Since this can interfere with heart function, early diagnosis of macrocytic anemia is important.
Other possible reasons for a high MCH test include several other forms of anemia, thyroid dysfunction, chemotherapy, certain infections, over use of estrogen-containing medications, some forms of leukemia and hereditary spherocytosis; a condition that causes a shortage of red blood cells.
What Low MCH Test Results Can Indicate?
MCH levels below 26 pg are considered abnormally low. Common causes of Low MCH include blood loss, iron deficiency and microcytic anemia, which is a condition in which red blood cells are abnormally small, carrying less hemoglobin. Other potential causes of a low MCH test include hemoglobinopathy, which is a group of disorders that cause changes in the structure of hemoglobin, and iron-deficiency anemia.
If you have had a CBC done; and, results show MCH levels that are higher or lower than normal, further investigation is warranted. While abnormal results are not necessarily an indication of serious health issues, as noted in the above lists; they can be significant, so it is important to rule them out. Many of the possible causes of abnormal MCH levels require treatment to protect health and well-being, such as anemia or other blood disorders, thyroid disease and nutritional deficiencies.
Your doctor may be able to determine the cause of abnormal MCH results with the help of other components of the CBC, such as MCV results, which measure the average size of red blood cells, or MCHC, which measures hemoglobin concentration. Blood tests to determine your nutritional status may also be done to determine whether nutritional deficiencies are an issue. If your doctor suspects thyroid disease to be the root cause of your abnormal MCH levels, a blood test called a thyroid function panel may be needed to evaluate the health and function of your thyroid gland. Depending on an evaluation of your general health and any symptoms you may be experiencing, your doctor may order a variety of other tests to determine the cause of your high or low MCH results.
A CBC is commonly included in a bloodwork ordered by your doctor during an annual checkup. Also included in this standard test bundling is a comprehensive metabolic panel (CMP), urinalysis, hemoglobin A1c, and lipid panel. This package is available at Health Testing Centers for only $89.
Information on Treatment Effectiveness
Many doctors order CBC tests to identify unknown problems; but, this blood test can also provide helpful information about existing health concerns and the progress of your treatment. If you're taking a medication or following a treatment plan, your doctor may order periodic CBC tests to assess how effective the therapy has been as well as to determine how to proceed.
If you have already been diagnosed with anemia or another blood disorder, routine CBC tests can help your medical team monitor your health over an extended period of time. While a CBC test can be particularly helpful if you're undergoing chemotherapy or radiation treatment, this test can also check your red and white cell count and confirm other blood count metrics. This will allow your doctor to assess how well a prescription medication is working. Since a CBC test can be essential for assessing a person’s general health, it may be wise to order it once a year. It is convenient, affordable and only takes a couple of minutes to be completed. It's a smart way to gain key insight about your health and medical treatments.
Whether you want to assess how effective your medical treatments are or you are just curious about potential health risks, a CBC can answer your questions. By giving you a complete picture of your health status, this common blood test can also provide both you and your doctor with a wide range of information about your overall condition. Order a complete blood count test from Health Testing Centers to get a better handle on your health today.
What Is A Wellness Blood Test?
Most of us know that seeing the doctor for a wellness checkup, on a regular basis, is recommended as part of basic preventive health care. However, not everyone makes those physical exams a priority. So, why are they important and just how often should the average person get these routine checkups? Do some people need them more or less often than others? Just, what do doctors look for during a complete physical exam? Here, we'll get into the details about wellness exams, including when you should have them; and, what you can expect when you see your doctor.
About Wellness Checkups
The goals of regular wellness checkups are very important ones. They aim at keeping tabs on your overall health, helping you avoid preventable health problems and aiding in ensuring that emerging health issues are caught and treated early, before they develop into major or chronic health problems. They are also very important in helping your doctor become familiar with your overall health, which is vital to promoting the good working relationship you need with your health care provider to ensure the best level of care.
So, how often should you be seeing your doctor for a complete physical exam and what can you expect to be done during these appointments? The answers to those questions depend on factors like your stage of life, your gender and your personal health history; so, your personal needs may vary slightly from the following general guidelines:
Wellness Checkup Guidelines for Men
An annual wellness exam is recommended for young men, ages 18 to 21, while men ages 22 to 49 should have a complete physical exam at least once every 4 years. Men that are 50 to 64 years old need a wellness exam every 2 years, and men that are 65 yrs. and over, should be seen once every year. Men can expect their doctors to perform a thorough, head-to-toe physical examination, go over their personal and family health histories, and question them about any medications – prescription, non-prescription and supplements – they are taking regularly. Vital signs, such as blood pressure and body mass index will be evaluated, basic vision and hearing screenings are generally done, and current vaccinations evaluated to ensure that they are up-to-date.
Health screening tests are also done in the course of wellness exams. Tests done in men of all ages may include a comprehensive metabolic panel (CMP), which provides an overview of general health by looking at factors like blood glucose (sugar) levels and waste products in the blood that indicate how well organs, like the kidneys and liver are functioning. A complete blood count (CBC) is usually done, which looks at the composition of the blood, measuring red blood cells, white blood cells, hemoglobin and hematocrit to screen for indications of common problems, such as anemia or infection, among others. A urinalysis may also be performed to look for indications of common health issues.
In men, over age 35, lipid panels evaluating cholesterol levels are done at least every 5 years; and, men 50 years of age or older are generally screened for early signs of colon and prostate cancer. A screening for hepatitis C is also recommended for men of this age group.
Wellness Checkup Guidelines for Women
An annual checkup is recommended for women between the ages of 18 and 21, while women age 22 to 49 should be seen for a complete physical exam at least once every 4 years. Women age 50 to 64 should have wellness exams at least every 2 years, and women over age 65 should be seen every year. As with men, women can expect a thorough physical examination, a detailed evaluation of personal and family health history, an examination of vital signs and vaccinations.
Basic health screening tests are typically done for women of all ages including a CMP, CMC and urinalysis. Pap tests, which look for indications of cervical cancer, should be done at least every three years in women over age 21, and women under age 30 should be screened for chlamydia. Cholesterol should be tested at least every 5 years, and mammograms should be performed every year or two in women over 40 to screen for breast cancer. Women over 65 need bone density screenings, annual blood pressure checks, periodic colon cancer screenings, and should be screened at least once for hepatitis C.
These guidelines reflect the minimum standards for preventive care in adults. Many health care professionals recommend an annual wellness exam for adults of all ages, and even if you've been given a clean bill of health thus far, having a complete physical exam before you begin a new weight-loss or exercise plan is always a good idea, as is having any unusual symptoms or changes in your general health evaluated by your doctor immediately.
General Health Resources
Featured Tests And Packages
Complete blood count (CBC), comprehensive metabolic panel (CMP), urinalysis (UA), hemoglobin A1c (HgbA1c), and lipid panel (cholesterol test).
CBC, CMP, UA, HgbA1c, lipid panel, Iron, GGT, TSH, and Vitamin D levels comprise our doctor recommended Essential Health Check.
The Expanded Health Check includes additional heart, diabetes, liver, thyroid, hormone, cancer and vitamin testing: more than 90 critical health metrics.
The Expanded Health Check includes additional heart, diabetes, liver, thyroid, hormone, cancer and vitamin testing: more than 90 critical health metrics.
This comprehensive package combines over 50 tests, 128 key metrics reflecting heart, diabetes, liver, kidney, thyroid, hormone, cancer and nutritional health.
This comprehensive package combines over 50 tests, 128 key metrics reflecting heart, diabetes, liver, kidney, thyroid, hormone, cancer and nutritional health.
Measures the amount of thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) and free thyroxine (T4) to evaluate thyroid function
Lab Tests (A-Z)
Learn your blood type. Test determines blood group (A, B, AB, or O) and Rh type (positive or negative)
Measures the level of alanine aminotransferase (ALT), an enzyme found in the liver and kidneys that may indicate problems.
This test measure the level of Alkaline Phosphatase (ALP) in the blood.
This test measures the level of Aspartate Aminotransferase (AST), an enzyme found primarily in the liver and heart.
Measures levels of 8 individual components to assess overall health
This test measures the level of BUN ( blood urea nitrogen) in the blood.
This test measures BUN and creatinine levels to evaluate kidney function and how well the kidneys are able to filter waste products.
hs-CRP blood test measures the level of C-reactive protein (CRP) to help assess risk for heart disease and inflammation.
Measures the level of calcium to assess general health or for parathyroid conditions
The Calcium, Ionized test is used to measure the free or unbound amount of calcium in the blood.
This test measures the level of Chloride in the blood.
Measures red and white blood cells, hematocrit, hemoglobin and platelets
CMP blood test measures levels of 14 individual components to assess overall health.
This test is used to detect D-Dimer in the blood, associated with blood clotting.
Measures level of ferritin to assess iron deficiency or iron overload.
This test is used to measure the activity of Fibrinogen in the blood.
A blood glucose test measures glucose levels to screen for diabetes and hypoglycemia.
An A1C blood test, measures the average amount of glucose (blood sugar) over the past 2-3 months to screen for diabetes or monitor existing diabetes
Measures level of iron to assess iron deficiency or iron overload
Measures the amount of iron available to bind to proteins, providing additional information about possible iron deficiency or iron overload
Cholesterol test for LDL, HDL, Total and Triglycerides. (aka Lipid Profile).
This test measures the amount of potassium in the blood to evaluate this important electrolyte level.
This test measures the amount of potassium in a 24 hour urine sample to evaluate this important electrolyte level.
PSA test measures the level of prostate-specific antigen (PSA) to evaluate prostate function in men.
The Prothrombin Time(PT/INR) and Partial Thromboplastin Time (PTT) test is used to measure how long it takes the blood to clot.
This test measures the level of sodium in the blood.
Measures the amount of thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) to evaluate thyroid function
Measures the amount of thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) and free thyroxine (T4) to evaluate thyroid function
Examines a urine sample for the presence of proteins and other signs of infection
Measures the amount of vitamin D, an important factor in bone strength
Health and Wellness Testing Locations By State
We work with both LabCorp and Quest Diagnostics, so chances are there's a lab minutes from where you live. Combined they have over 3500 locations nationwide. If you want to find a lab testing center using your zip code, visit our Lab Locator.
Here is a list of states where we have blood testing facilites. Click on your state to find a location in your city or town: