What Labs Does My Primary Care Physician Do at My Annual Appointment?

Last month, we took a closer look at why you need a primary care physician (PCP). Reasons range from managing chronic conditions and understanding possible interactions with various medications and supplements to simply staying healthy

For today’s blog post, let’s gain an understanding of what labs your primary care physician does at your annual appointment.

Your PCP will most likely order some labs at the end of your annual visit. If blood work isn’t a part of your appointment, you can always ask for it! It’s a great way to take a closer look at your overall health, especially if you have worrisome symptoms or a family history of problems like high cholesterol

You’ll get your blood drawn and then get a call or message in the patient portal a few days later with the results. But what do those results mean

Below, we explain four common labs and why they’re important.

1. Complete Blood Count (CBC)

A complete blood count measures different features of your blood, like white blood cells, red blood cells, platelets, hemoglobin, and hematocrit. This test is very likely to be covered by your insurance, and all adults should ask for it as a part of their annual physical. A CBC is a screening test for issues with the immune system and different types of blood cancers, which can happen in young people. It will also find anemia, which is a common condition for menstruating women. 

2. Comprehensive Metabolic Panel (CMP)

A comprehensive metabolic panel gives you information about your metabolism, including your kidney and liver function and your risk for type 2 diabetes. It often includes a measure of your fasting blood glucose: A fasting blood glucose of less than 100 mg/dL is “normal,” but most doctors prefer that number to be around 70 or 80 mg/dL. This panel also looks at electrolytes, including odium, calcium, and potassium, which relate to your liver and kidney and reveal if you’re dehydrated. Chances are, your insurance covers this test as well.

3. Hemoglobin A1C (HbA1C)

One of the best ways to catch blood sugar issues — like insulin resistance and pre-diabetes — before they become serious problems is with a hemoglobin A1C test. All adults should get this test done, especially if you are overweight, have an increased risk for diabetes, are over age 45, have symptoms of PCOS, and/or are struggling with fertility.

The HbA1C test measures the percentage of your red blood cells saturated with glucose. A higher A1C means a higher average blood glucose (typically over the last two to three months). This higher marker may also indicate an increased risk of cancer and Alzheimer’s disease. For young women, a high HbA1c is associated with polycystic ovaries (PCOS), which makes it difficult to conceive. Fortunately, if your labs reveal a high number, you can make adjustments to your eating and exercise habits that benefit both your fertility and metabolism. 

4. Lipid Panel

A standard lipid panel reveals your heart health. It measures your HDL (good) cholesterol, LDL (bad) cholesterol0, and triglycerides. A high LDL cholesterol is linked to heart disease, although many people with normal or even low LDL cholesterol still develop this condition. A good HDL-to-triglycerides ratio is also an important predictor for heart disease prevention, especially if you have a family history of it. You want your HDL to be higher than or equal to your triglycerides.

Of course, your PCP may recommend additional blood work as well.

Other common labs include a thyroid panel or TSH test, a vitamin D test, and an anemia panel, which includes iron, ferritin, folate, and vitamin B12. Knowing these test results can empower you to adjust your habits and change your health for the better. 

Contact Dr. Asha Tota-Maharaj, MD at Platinum Primary Care with all your healthcare needs. Come visit us at 2071 Dundee Drive in Winter Park.