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Tuesday, July 22, 2014 - Your yearly lab tests can uncover undiagnosed health issues

Your yearly lab tests can uncover undiagnosed health issues

By Edward Stoner, M.D.

Hopefully, you and your family members undergo annual physical examinations each year. Sometimes patients tell me they feel fine and don’t really need a standard physical. What these patients don’t know is that serious, even life-threatening medical conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer can be thriving in the body ─ without exhibiting a single physical symptom.

Early detection of certain health problems are discovered more often in your lab work (blood and urine testing) rather than during the physical examination. Therefore, undergoing yearly blood and urine testing is crucial to accurately evaluating your current health and effectively addressing any potential medical concerns. Devoting just an hour of your day to getting a physical can literally save your life. As a primary care doctor, I can assure you I have seen this happen many times.

To find out how truly healthy—or unhealthy—you are, you need to evaluate a variety of blood and urine components. If you are generally in good health, I’ve listed a few key blood tests that your family doctor should prescribe. (If you are experiencing medical symptoms, such as fatigue or inability to lose weight, additional screening tests can be ordered):

  • Lipid Panel

This test measures the amount of cholesterol and triglycerides in your blood. It can help determine any plaque buildup in your arteries that can lead to blockages throughout the body (atherosclerosis). High cholesterol, a risk factor for heart disease, is usually without symptoms so this test is an important tool. To get accurate results, fasting for at least six hours before having your blood drawn is important

  • General Chemistries

This panel of tests gives your doctor insight into a variety of your body’s functions such as blood sugar and kidney / liver function.

  • CBC

A complete blood count (CBC) is used to evaluate your red and white blood cells and hemoglobin in order to detect a wide range of disorders including anemia, infection and leukemia.

Not feeling that great?

Perhaps you are feeling chronically tired, have lost or gained weight without cause or something just doesn’t feel ‘right.’ In this case, a hormone level check may help pinpoint what the trouble might be. Without an overall picture of which hormone systems are affected, it is often difficult to know the best clinical course of action for correcting the imbalance. A thyroid level check can also help explain fatigue, skin trouble, irritability, sleeping issues or weight gain.

When left undiagnosed, a disease has the time to grow. Make sure your yearly physical includes detailed lab work and talk with your doctor about any symptoms you may be experiencing. Armed with this knowledge, your doctor can order additional screening tests to rule out additional medical issues that may be lurking. To learn more about the latest recommended health screenings for your stage of life, consult with your primary care physician.

The Family Practice of CentraState provides high quality primary medical care to Freehold area residents from infants to seniors. The practice is recognized by the National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA) as a level III Patient Centered Medical Home. To find a primary care doctor in your area, call CentraState’s Physician Finder at (866) CENTRA7 or search our physician finder.

Dr. Stoner is a board-certified internal medicine physician on staff at CentraState Medical Center in Freehold, NJ. The doctor can be reached at Family Practice of CentraState by calling 732-462-0100.