Blood draw reveals many secrets of the body
Last updated 4/21/2023 at 5:38am
Special to the Village News
Medical patients have seen at least a few of the common categories that can be marked on a lab order – white blood cell count, red blood cell count, cholesterol, blood glucose (sugar), etc.
What you may not know is that in the short amount of time it takes to prick the arm and fill the allotted vials, each person's blood provides a detailed, personalized health map for a doctor to review. It can reveal secrets taking place in the body that the patient is unaware of.
Blood contains genetic information, and glimpses into the person's lifestyle. The testing of blood can reveal precautionary flags that can be vital to address in regards to an individual's long-term health picture.
These results provide a perfect 'snippet in time.' A blood draw, in addition to any other laboratory tests, "combined with a careful review of patient history and status [allows for] a diagnosis," explained Carlo Ledesma, MS, MLS(ASCP) SH, DLM, QLS, MT (AMT), who serves as Director of Phlebotomy and Medical Lab Technology at Rose State College. Ledesma is certified as a specialist in hematology, as an international medical technologist, and holds a qualification in lab safety.
Ledesma said, "The common blood tests like blood count and metabolic panels tell a clinician or a provider what the metabolic status is of a patient or if there are any physiologic disturbances."
It's all on a case-by-case basis though. "In most blood results, one usually sees a column or a flag if it is high/low or if there needs to be a clinically actionable item (i.e. critical results); however when someone sees a 'low' or 'high' flag, that doesn't necessarily mean an abnormal condition at that moment your blood was drawn."
It's human nature to see a red flag on a lab result and panic – but what's reassuring is that it could "also reflect a normal physiologic state or a patient 'normal.' To address results from blood tests requires a careful review of a patient's medical history or addressing factors that may contribute to the results being an outlier."
It is important to stay proactive with getting the required lab tests a doctor orders, so they know what "normal" is vs. a cautionary result in a person.
Ledesma said an annual blood draw is always a wise idea and noted, "It is always a good idea to have an annual check to look at your overall health. Keeping track of your blood results and discussing them with your provider will help you understand any significant changes that are happening with your body."
As we know, habits involving sleep, food, stress, and more play a constant role in shifting our state of health. If an annual blood draw shows significant change to the prior, he said, "A significant change in a lifestyle may be reflected there and can be addressed. These common blood tests are also what emergency physicians look at in cases where an acute change happens that may disrupt normal physiologic processes (i.e. poisoning, acute blood loss)."
With a plethora of books on the topic of 'eating for your blood type,' one wonders if certain tendencies are really associated with each blood type. Ledesma said that "There are a lot of studies surrounding blood type and disease associations, but we first have to think that correlation doesn't mean causation."
He continued on, "In the age of molecular diagnostics, and our increased understanding of the molecular basis of disease, blood type associations with disorders have been trumped by more sophisticated tests."
His approach, when looking at blood studies and how it connects with disease associations, as a trained scientist is, "'I always ask the question... Now what? How can we address these then? We can't change someone's or the entire population's blood type. What do we do with these types of information?'"
In regards to current blood studies, "It begs to ask the question that we need to understand diseases more and far beyond that information so we could understand what's next... diagnostics, therapeutics, management... and prevention of disease."
Ledesma is dedicated to solving important questions for the population's health and is focused on asking about and researching the ever-shifting questions in his field.
Consider acknowledging phlebotomists with a kind word. To put it in perspective, "Phlebotomists are vital members of the health care team," he said. "They represent the laboratory to the patient, as members of the laboratory team that help providers make decisions in how their care is handled."
"The medical laboratory scientists, also trained in phlebotomy, are the professionals who perform the tests and communicate with clinical personnel about the different tests in the lab," said Ledesma. "There are pathologists and advanced practice medical laboratory scientists in most medical institutions that are more than willing to talk to patients and provide consultation on what the laboratory tests are and how your result impacts your health."
In 2018 Mr. Ledesma received the Mentorship Award by the American Society for Clinical Pathology for his commitment to the field of Pathology. In addition, he serves as a resource for regulatory compliance in laboratories across Oklahoma and Texas.
Shelby Ramsey is the author of the blog, thehonestmigraine.com, which also features interviews with patients and medical experts.