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Blood work 101: Know Your Blood work

nurse preparing to take blood from a patient

A full understanding of your blood test results can help you make good decisions about your diet and lifestyle PLUS it keeps you curious, in the driver’s seat, about your own health and it’s a responsive way to be aware of how your body works.

A typical routine blood test is the complete blood count, also called CBC, to count your red and white blood cells as well as measure your hemoglobin levels and other blood components.

Another common blood test is the basic metabolic panel to check your heart, kidney, and liver function by looking at your blood glucose, calcium, and electrolyte levels. To check for heart disease, you may have a lipoprotein panel that measures levels of fats in your blood like High / Low-density lipids.

The tests that make up the basic metabolic panel are blood (serum) tests for:

  • BUN (blood urea nitrogen), which measures the amount of nitrogen in the blood in order to determine your kidney function

  • Creatinine, which can tell your doctor how your kidneys are functioning ( helpful for knowing when building muscle) ( hydration)

  • Glucose, which checks your blood sugar levels — abnormally high or low glucose levels could indicate a range of issues

  • Albumin, which is a protein that can change with kidney and liver disease

  • CO2 (carbon dioxide or bicarbonate), which references lung and kidney function

  • Calcium, which can help determine if there is a kidney bone or parathyroid problem (a gland in the neck)

  • Sodium, one of the salts in the body that reflects more the body’s water balance than salt

  • Potassium, another salt in the body

  • Chloride

Your sodium, potassium, and chloride levels will be tested as part of your electrolyte panel. Electrolyte balance is essential to the normal functioning of the muscular, cardiovascular, and nervous systems.

 Normal results for a basic metabolic panel

Normal ranges will vary slightly for adults over the age of 60 years.


Normal range

(Adults 18-60 years old)

Normal range

(Adults over 60 years old)


BUN (blood urea nitrogen)

6-20 mg/dL (milligrams per deciliter of blood)

8-23 mg/dL

kidney test


0.9-1.3 mg/dL for men; 0.6-1.1 mg/dL for women

0.8-1.3 mg/dL for men; 0.6-1.2 mg/dL for women

kidney test


70-99 mg/dL

70-99 mg/dL

sugar metabolism


3.4-5.4 g/dL (grams per deciliter of blood)

3.4-5.4 g/dL

blood protein

CO2 (carbon dioxide or bicarbonate)

23-29 mEq/L (milliequivalent units per litre of blood)

23-31 mEq/L (adults 61-90 years old); 20-29 mEq/L (adults over 90 years old)

electrolyte panel

Ca+ (calcium)

8.6-10.2 mg/dL

8.6-10.2 mg/dL

electrolyte panel

Na+ (sodium)

136-145 mEq/L

132-146 mEq/L (adults over 90 years old)

electrolyte panel

K+ (potassium)

3.5-5.1 mEq/L

3.5-5.1 mEq/L

electrolyte panel

Cl- (chloride)

98-107 mEq/L

98-111 mEq/L (adults over 90 years old)

electrolyte panel

Why is a basic metabolic panel performed in your bloodwork?

The basic metabolic panel can give your doctor a good idea as to whether you have any serious problems with:

  • Blood filtration

  • Acid/base balance of your blood

  • Blood sugar levels

  • Electrolyte levels

This can help uncover a variety of medical issues, including:

  • Kidney problems

  • Lung problems

  • Problems with your pancreas or insulin metabolism

More detailed tests will be ordered to see if any of these basic indicators are abnormal.

One advantage of a panel of tests is that many tests can be done with just one blood sample. It’s then divided up in a lab.

But I just want to see vitamin levels! Which blood tests should I get then?

Well, here you go! Try to get these tested- along with Iron, basic vitamin levels, gluten, and calcium.

  1. Magnesium 

Magnesium is one of the most important minerals in the body. Magnesium is involved in over 300 biochemical processes in the body and deficiencies have been found to play a role in the development of numerous diseases. Below are just a few roles magnesium plays in the body:

  • Stress reduction and muscle relaxation

  • Maintaining healthy blood pressure by relaxing blood vessels

  • Increasing the number of and maintaining healthy function of mitochondria, the powerhouses of the cell

  • Regulating appropriate insulin and blood sugar levels

  • Assisting in the conversion of vitamin D to its active form

Magnesium is so important that it is one of the first things I see a deficiency in.

How to get more? – Chlorophyll-rich greens and Epsom salt baths (my choice)

  1. B12 deficiency

Vitamin B12 is involved in the division of all cells, the maintenance of the nervous and immune systems, and more. Some of the most common symptoms people manifest when deficient include sensory loss, fatigue, memory issues, difficulty with walking, numbness and tingling, and depression.

Vitamin B12 also plays an important role in the conversion of homocysteine into less harmful molecules. Elevated homocysteine levels have been found to cause inflammation and increase the risk of heart disease, including heart attacks and strokes.

Best ways to get it, include…. SARDINES! Yeah!!

  1. Vitamin D

Vitamin D is produced in the skin mainly from cholesterol when it comes in contact with UVB rays from the sun.  This is one of the very important roles of cholesterol in the body. It is imperative to have optimal levels of vitamin D because it is essential to many processes in the body, including the regulation of calcium levels and immune function. In fact, low vitamin D has been associated with an increased risk of heart disease, insulin resistance and more.

You can get Vitamin D from fortified dairy products, cereals, egg yolks or cod liver oil are your best bets. Also, shiitake mushrooms.


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