Blood Tests Older Adults Should Be Getting

Feb 28, 2022

As people age, the amount of health issues they encounter tends to increase. Doctors often prescribe blood work to identify possible conditions or help aging patients stay healthy. While most older people have experience with routine blood tests, fewer are aware of the types of blood work they need. Discover five vital blood tests aging patients should get from the lab technicians at TOPLAB®.

Basic Metabolic Panel

A basic metabolic panel evaluates electrolytes in seven or eight measurements. Often called the chem-7 test, the basic metabolic panel looks at:

  • Blood urea nitrogen (BUN)
  • Carbon dioxide (or bicarbonate)
  • Chloride
  • Creatinine
  • Glucose
  • Potassium
  • Sodium

Doctors consider normal levels of blood substances to be the ranges found in 95% of healthy people of a demographic group. A basic metabolic panel allows doctors to measure blood levels and determine if a patient suffers from a health condition. For example, this test looks at BUN, carbon dioxide, and creatinine levels to shed light on lung and kidney functionality.

The basic metabolic panel also shows glucose levels, allowing physicians to diagnose a patient with diabetes (high glucose levels) or hypoglycemia (low glucose levels). Additionally, it helps doctors discover if certain blood pressure medications or diuretics cause complications or side effects in people.

Comprehensive Metabolic Panel

This blood test comprises everything from the basic metabolic panel plus seven more elements. Since this blood work screens for double the substances of the standard test, doctors and lab technicians sometimes refer to it as the chem-14 panel. The additional items of the comprehensive metabolic panel are:

  • Albumin
  • Alkaline phosphatase
  • ALT (alanine aminotransferase)
  • AST (aspartate aminotransferase)
  • Bilirubin (total)
  • Calcium
  • Total protein

The comprehensive metabolic panel helps medical professionals uncover various aspects of a person’s health. Higher bilirubin levels may indicate someone has gallstones, while lower albumin levels may mean the patient suffers from a liver issue. Additionally, calcium levels can show how someone’s body reacts to different medications. 

Complete Blood Count (CBC)

A CBC involves a series of tests that examine a person’s blood cells. Some CBC tests are ordered with differential, meaning the white blood cells are separated into subtypes. However, most CBCs feature the following items:

  • Hematocrit: the portion of blood that contains red blood cells
  • Hemoglobin: the amount in grams of red blood cells in every deciliter of blood
  • Mean corpuscular volume: the mean size of red blood cells
  • Platelet count: the number of platelets found in each microliter of blood
  • Red blood cell count: the number of red blood cells per microliter of blood
  • White blood cell count: the number of white blood cells per microliter of blood

Physicians use this blood work to diagnose numerous conditions. If a patient’s red blood cell count, hematocrit, and hemoglobin levels are below average, they may have anemia. Higher white blood cell levels suggest the immune system is fighting an infection, and lower levels of multiple blood cells can signify bone marrow issues. A CBC also can show a lower platelet count in older people, which requires additional screening.

Thyroid Function Blood Work

Doctors use these tests to screen for thyroid problems and decide how to adjust dosages for thyroid replacement medications. Free thyroxine (“free T4” or FT4) and thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) are the most common blood tests used to gauge thyroid function. 

Thyroid disorders frequently appear in older adults, especially women, and usually cause fatigue and poor cognitive abilities. Doctors start with the TSH test to help a patient with a thyroid issue since higher TSH levels convey the thyroid gland is not making enough of the hormone. If a TSH screening comes back abnormal, the doctor will order a free T4 test to verify the person has a thyroid problem.

Lipid (Cholesterol) Panel

Lipid panels evaluate the various types of cholesterol and associated fats in a person’s bloodstream. This test typically includes:

  • Total cholesterol
  • Triglycerides
  • High-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, or “good” cholesterol
  • Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, or “bad” cholesterol (usually determined by looking at results from the first three tests)

Cholesterol blood work primarily assesses cardiovascular risk in aging adults. If a person has above average total or LDL cholesterol levels, the physician may prescribe dietary changes and medication to help them manage their health.

Receive Fast and Accurate Blood Work at TOPLAB®

Older people who need blood work should turn to TOPLAB® for reliable results. Our full clinical reference laboratory uses state-of-the-art facilities to deliver accurate results on numerous blood tests, including CBCs and metabolic counts. As a small lab, we ensure no patients are put on a waiting list, enabling us to deliver test results quickly. We also provide home blood draw services for housebound patients in NJ and NY and conduct direct-to-consumer blood work for individuals nationwide.

Contact us today to learn how we serve older adults in NJ and across the United States.