Routine medical exams, a healthy habit Routine medical exams, a healthy habit

These tests are an essential part of prevention in order for doctors to make a good diagnosis, and monitor and ensure the health of patients.

Medical Advisor Julián Alberto Hurtado Mondragón – General Physicians, practitioner at Coomeva Private Healthcare

Everyone should get regular exams at least once a year, even if people do not have symptoms; and depending on the condition one has, this should be done every three to six months.

Exams themselves are not a diagnosis, but together with a person’s medical records and a physical exam, they can provide valuable information about a patient’s state of health. They help to prevent, monitor, treat and cure diseases.

Physician Julián Hurtado Mondragón shares some information on the more important routine lab exams.

Complete blood count (CBC)

This test helps establish the state of a patient’s immune system. It determines the levels of hemoglobin in the blood (a red blood cell protein that carries oxygen), hematocrit (the number of red blood cells), leukocytes (white blood cells) and platelets (small components of blood cells that form blood clots, which help heal wounds and prevent bleeding).

Hemoglobin in women should range between 12 and16 g/dL and between 14 and 18 g/dL in men. Hemoglobin counts are complimentary to screening tests that are done in order to assess diseases that cause anemia. For example, a decrease in the amount of hemoglobin in red blood cells and a reduction in its diameter may be indicative of iron deficiency.

Measuring hematocrit levels is an important part of assessing anemia. If these levels are high, this can be a sign of pulmonary problems. In women, these levels range between 37% and 47% and from 42% to 52% in men.

High levels of leukocytes are markers of infections such as appendicitis or of a virus. With other conditions, the increase of abnormal or immature leukocyte cells can be an indicator of a leukemia diagnosis. Too many of these cells, however, may indicate that something is wrong in the bone marrow, which is responsible for producing them. Leukocyte levels should range between 5,000 and 10,000 mm3.

Lastly, platelets should range between 150,000 and 400,000 mm3.

Glycemia and glycosylated hemoglobin

These results help determine if the patient has diabetes. The first test shows the current status of glucose (sugar) levels in the blood, which should be between 70 to 110 mg/dL. A person is considered to be hypoglycemic if the number is below 70 and hyperglycemic if it is above 110. The second test helps determine how the blood glucose levels have behaved in the last three months. If they are below 4%, this is indicative that the person has hypoglycemia; if they are between 6% to 6.5%, the test goal for the diabetic patient was met; if they are from 6.6% to 7%, the levels are balanced; and if they are above 7%, the diabetic patient’s condition will be difficult to manage.

Creatinine

Creatinine is a measure of kidney function. Its range should fall between 0.70 to 1.30 mg/dL. Levels higher than this are indicative of kidney failure.

Lipid profile

Determines how cholesterol and triglyceride levels are. HDL cholesterol is beneficial for the body and LDL cholesterol is harmful, as it clogs the arteries. Triglycerides are a type of fat in the blood that leads to coronary artery disease. This test’s indicators are as follow: total cholesterol should be as high as 200 mg/dL, HDL cholesterol (the good kind) should be higher than 40 mg/dL, LDL cholesterol (the bad kind) should be lower than 150 mg/dL and triglycerides should be no higher than 160 mg/dL. Results that do not fall within these parameters may indicate cardiovascular risk.

Uric acid test

This test indicates if the patient has gout (a disease of the joints). This test should range from 3.4 to 7 mg/dL.

Urinalysis

Through physical, chemical and microscopic methods, this test is the study of the appearance and color of urine, its density and acidity (pH), and of its different chemical elements (bilirubin, glucose, hemoglobin, etc.) and biological elements (bacteria, red and white blood cells and other cells) whose presence in the urine could be indicative of a condition or disease.

A urinalysis examines how the kidneys are functioning, the regulation of fluids in the body, the regulation of microorganisms (bacteria) that may be indicative of infection, the concentration of hormones and other organic substances that, if abnormal, may indicate changes or diseases.

It is also part of the regular testing or periodic check-ups that are aimed at monitoring a person’s state of health and detecting health conditions early.

TSH

Determines how the thyroid is functioning. Its normal range should be between 4% and 6%.

Pap smear

Women should get this exam after their first sexual relationship. It is a simple test consisting of taking a small sample of tissue from the cervix to be analyzed in the laboratory in order to detect the presence of abnormal or cancerous cells. The test takes approximately three minutes and does not cause pain. It is used to have an early diagnosis of abnormalities in the cells or walls of the cervix.

This painless procedure is the most effective way to detect Human Papillomavirus (HPV), the main cause of cervical cancer. It also allows for this type of cancer to be detected early, which helps in treating the condition in a timely manner.

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Keep in mind

  • In order to not affect their results, patients should fast before getting some of these exams. It is okay to drink water, however.
  • For the glycemia test, it is important not to do physical exercise the day of the exam. For the lipid profile, alcohol should not be consumed 48 hours before.
  • Prior to having a urinalysis, the patient should clean their genitals, dry them well, urinate, and in the middle of urinating, place the container for collecting the sample in the stream. Close the container well and deliver it to the laboratory within two hours, otherwise refrigerate it.
  • For pap smears, unless a condom is used, the patient should refrain from having intercourse 24 hours prior to the exam.

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