Lab Testing 101: CBC
A complete blood count (CBC) is a blood test used to evaluate your overall blood health.
This is the first post in a series that will focus on lab testing. My goal in this series is to help you understand the basics of a variety of what I consider baseline tests.
The importance of having your own baseline results
An important reason for a healthy person to get semi-regular lab testing done is that it allows you to determine a baseline for yourself. One of the earliest indicators of something potentially “going wrong” is a sudden unexpected material change in a measure for you.
There can be significant variance in many reference ranges for lab tests, and knowing where you typically lie in that range helps you know when things have changed in an unexpected way, indicating you should evaluate further.
As you can see, my values are pretty stable. If I suddenly saw a result of 4.3 or 5.7, while technically in the optimal range, I’d investigate that further with a medical professional.
Furthermore, if at some point in the future you need to investigate an issue with a medical professional, being able to share your historical results and giving them data on where you typically lie in the reference ranges, which can be invaluable in helping identify causes.
When trying to optimize health and performance, it’s important to set quantified goals, and you can’t really do that if you don’t have a baseline to compare your results. For example, below, you can see how my vitamin D levels have changed as I’ve zeroed in on an optimal supplementation protocol for me:
The CBC test
The two tests that will almost always be included in a panel are a complete blood count (CBC) and a comprehensive metabolic panel (CMP). These tests are inexpensive and give insight into how your core systems are working.
This post focuses on the CBC test, which measures a number of components of your blood, which change in response to other things going on in your body. We offer the “CBC with differential” test, which includes 32 measures that give you insight into the following:
White blood cells - help our bodies fight infection and other diseases
Platelets - help with preventing and stopping bleeding through clotting
Red blood cells - carry oxygen from our lungs to the rest of our bodies
Hemoglobin - the oxygen-carrying protein in our red blood cells
Hematocrit - the ratio of red blood cells to the fluid component (plasma) in your blood; you can think of this as how “thick” your blood is
You’re evaluating a few things when looking at these results:
Are there values outside of optimal reference ranges?
Has there been a sudden increase or decrease in one of the numbers from baseline results?
Either of these may indicate that you have an underlying medical condition or that something else is going on with you that calls for further evaluation with a medical professional.
PhenoAge is a way of calculating your biological age that I talked about in this post. Dr. Steven Horvath and Morgan Levine, Ph.D. (among others) wanted to find a simple, inexpensive way to determine biological age and mortality risk, which lead to the development of the PhenoAge formula. They found that “while this biomarker was developed using data from whole blood, it correlates strongly with age in every tissue and cell tested” and “this single epigenetic biomarker of aging is able to capture risks for an array of diverse outcomes across multiple tissues and cells, and provide insight into important pathways in aging.” Impressive stuff!
The PhenoAge formula has 9 inputs from labs, 4 of which come from the CBC test. When you order lab tests from Realize Me, we will automatically calculate your PhenoAge for you.
The other inputs into the PhenoAge formula come from a comprehensive metabolic panel (CMP) and C-reactive Protein test, which I’ll cover in upcoming posts.
Realize Me provides advanced software for health optimization. Our members receive significant discounts on high-quality supplements and lab testing. Sign up here to join the waitlist.
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