Regular blood work a good first step

Oct. 9, 2018

A phlebotomist collects a blood sample from a patient in this photo. Regular blood work can give insight to a range of health issues.


Getting regular blood work is helpful. But it’s even better when tests are tailored to your needs.

“I’m a proponent of doing screening blood work, because you can pick up diseases early,” said Dr. Rosanne Iversen, a family medicine physician in Steamboat Springs and a member of the medical staff at UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center. “Medicine is moving more towards being personalized and tailored to that person’s health history and their family’s history.”

Below, Iversen outlines what you need to know when it comes to blood work.

Everyone is different

“If you have high blood pressure, you’re going to have a more thorough panel than a healthy 22-year-old,” Iversen said. “For instance, we’ll want to make sure kidney and liver function is normal, and that there isn’t a thyroid issue causing blood pressure to be elevated.”

A person complaining of fatigue and weight loss or gain may also have tests to review thyroid, liver and kidney function, while a person with a history of cancer may need tumor markers checked regularly. If there’s a family history of diabetes, insulin resistance may be tested.

All of this testing helps physicians address issues as early as possible. “If we intervene early on, then we can delay the onset of the disease,” Iversen said. “Early detection can be preventative.”

Basic screening tests

Blood tests give insight to a range of health issues, including how well organs function, whether you’re at risk for heart disease or diabetes, and whether you’re dealing with cancer or thyroid disease.

For instance, a Complete Blood Count (CBC) measures the different components of your blood, including red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets. This test helps evaluate overall health and detect various issues such as anemia, infections and immune disorders.

A basic metabolic panel measures various chemicals in the blood including glucose, calcium and electrolytes, and helps identify issues with the heart, bones, organs and muscles.

A lipoprotein panel provides details on good cholesterol (HDL), bad cholesterol (LDL) and triglycerides to highlight risk of heart disease.

An iron panel can help detect iron deficiency and overload, while a hemoglobin A1C test shows average blood glucose over the past two to three months and is typically recommended for people who need to monitor glucose management.

Beyond the basics

But often, more than the basics is necessary. “There’s so much that has been developed over the last few years,” Iversen said. “Now that we have the human genome mapped out, we can screen for a number of different abnormalities.” For example, genetic testing can be used to identify cancer risk and to see how your body reacts to various medications – check with your health care provider to see if it’s something to explore.

Work with your physician

Often people like to complete blood work before an annual physical so they can discuss the results with their physician. However, it can be helpful to meet with your provider first.

“Your provider can review your past health record, diagnoses and family history,” Iversen said. “Based on that, along with symptoms you may bring up at your physical, they may add screenings.”

While getting blood work done outside of a doctor’s visit, such as at a health fair, can be a good first step, don’t forgo a regular physical.

“Blood work only goes so far. It’s not the end-all,” Iversen said. “Whether your results are normal or abnormal, taking that next step of seeing a health provider is essential to your well-being.”


This article first appeared in the Steamboat Pilot & Today on Sept. 24, 2018.

About the author

Susan Cunningham lives in the Colorado Rocky Mountains with her husband and two daughters. She enjoys science nearly as much as writing: she’s traveled to the bottom of the ocean via submarine to observe life at hydrothermal vents, camped out on an island of birds to study tern behavior, and now spends time in an office writing and analyzing data. She blogs about writing and science at