There are several tests that are used to help diagnose cardiac disorders. One type of test is a blood test. These tests check the levels of certain fats, cholesterol, sugar, and proteins in your blood. Abnormal levels may be a sign that you're at risk for coronary heart disease (CHD). Blood tests also help detect anemia, a risk factor for CHD.
Blood tests help doctors check for certain diseases and conditions. They also help check the function of your organs and show how well treatments are working.
Specifically, blood tests can help doctors:
Blood tests are very common. When you have routine checkups, your doctor may recommend blood tests to see how your body is working.
Many blood tests don't require any special preparations. For some, you may need to fast for 8 to 12 hours before the test. Your doctor will let you know how to prepare for blood tests.
During a blood test, a small sample of blood is taken from your body. It's usually drawn from a vein in your arm using a needle. A finger prick also might be used.
The procedure usually is quick and easy, although it may cause some short-term discomfort. Most people don't have serious reactions to having blood drawn.
Laboratory workers draw the blood and analyze it. They use either whole blood to count blood cells or they separate the blood cells from the fluid that contains them. This fluid is called plasma or serum.
The fluid is used to measure different substances in the blood. The results can help detect health problems in early stages, when treatments or lifestyle changes may work best.
Doctors can't diagnose many diseases and medical problems with blood tests alone. Your doctor may consider other factors to confirm a diagnosis. These factors can include your signs and symptoms, your medical history, your vital signs (blood pressure, breathing, pulse, and temperature), and results from other tests and procedures.
Blood tests have few risks. Most complications are minor and go away shortly after the tests are done.
Some of the most common blood tests are:
Complete Blood Count
The CBC is one of the most common blood tests. It's often done as part of a routine checkup.
The CBC can help detect blood diseases and disorders, such as anemia, infections, clotting problems, blood cancers, and immune system disorders. This test measures many different parts of your blood, as discussed in the following paragraphs.
Blood Chemistry Tests/Basic Metabolic Panel
The basic metabolic panel (BMP) is a group of tests that measures different chemicals in the blood. These tests usually are done on the fluid part of the blood. The tests can give doctors information about your muscles (including the heart), bones, and organs, such as the kidneys and liver.
The BMP includes blood glucose, calcium, and electrolyte tests, as well as blood tests that measure kidney function. Some of these tests require you to fast before the test, and others don't. Your doctor will tell you how to prepare for the test(s) you're having.
Blood Enzyme Tests
Enzymes are chemicals that help control chemical reactions in your body. There are many blood enzyme tests. This section focuses on blood enzyme tests used to check for heart attack. These include troponin and creatine kinase (CK) tests.
Blood Tests to Assess Heart Disease Risk
A lipoprotein panel is a blood test that can help show whether you're at risk for coronary heart disease (CHD). This test looks at substances in your blood that carry cholesterol.
A lipoprotein panel gives information about your:
A lipoprotein panel measures the levels of LDL and HDL cholesterol and triglycerides in your blood. Abnormal cholesterol and triglyceride levels may be signs of increased risk for CHD.
Most people will need to fast for 9 to 12 hours before a lipoprotein panel.
Blood Clotting Tests
Blood clotting tests sometimes are called a coagulation panel. These tests check proteins in your blood that affect the blood clotting process. Abnormal test results might suggest that you're at risk of bleeding or developing clots in your blood vessels.
Your doctor may recommend these tests if they think you have a disorder or disease related to blood clotting.
Blood clotting tests also are used to monitor people who are taking medicines to lower the risk of blood clots.
Blood tests show whether the levels of different substances in your blood fall within a normal range.
For many blood substances, the normal range is the range of levels seen in 95 percent of healthy people in a certain group. For many tests, normal ranges vary depending on your age, gender, race, and other factors.
Your blood test results may fall outside the normal range for many reasons. Abnormal results might be a sign of a disorder or disease. Other factors — such as diet, menstrual cycle, and physical activity level, alcohol intake, and medicines — also can cause abnormal results.
Your doctor should discuss any unusual or abnormal blood test results with you. These results may or may not suggest a health problem.
Many diseases and medical problems can't be diagnosed with blood tests alone. However, blood tests can help you and your doctor learn more about your health. Blood tests also can help find potential problems early, when treatments or lifestyle changes may work best.
Source: National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute; National Institutes of Health; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
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