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Know Your Numbers: What the Lab Values from Your Doctor Actually Mean

If you're playing nice (or trying to be proactive) you show up to your yearly physical with a weary, yet understanding mindset. Your inner monologue might go like mine: "Ok, I'm probably fine. They'll run some tests, and tell me I'm normal. I'll have to smell like disinfectant for a few hours and wear a stupid paper dress, then I can go on with my life." I hate to break it to you, but this is how lazy people do the doctor's office... and sometimes it can be destructive. You may have years and years of everything "coming back normal" and all of a sudden there's an annual visit where your cholesterol is high, your thyroid is wacked out, and your blood pressure is through the roof. I'd like to help you prevent that. I'd like to propose a new annual routine -- with you as an EMPOWERED patient! You kick ass and take names in the rest of your life, so why turn into a passive little mouse once a year? Taking charge (respectfully) can make a difference between feeling "not sick" and "truly well." It's my hope that you'd be TRULY WELL rather than, merely, not sick (a totally underwhelming phrase, right?). Let me explain how you can take charge of your health by knowing your numbers, aka knowing what the lab values and tests from your doctor actually mean.


Here's the tricky thing about lab values from your doctor: normal may not mean ideal. For example: let's pretend your heart health was ranked on a scale from 1-10, where 1 was no risk of heart attack at all, and 10 was high risk for a heart attack. While the ideal range of heart health would be 1-3, the "normal" range might be from 1-6. The "high risk" range might be from 7-10. In this scenario, your doctor could tell you the results for your heart test came back "normal" whether you were a 1 or a 6, but one of those ratings is much worse! This happens all the time in real life, where patients are told they're normal when they're pretty far out of the "ideal" range. Keep this in mind as you view the *very Pinterest friendly* graphic below!


So what exactly can pull you from the outskirts of "normal" back to "ideal"? LIFESTYLE MEDICINE! That's right, using simple lifestyle changes every day can have profound effects on your lab results, AND your symptoms. Well Labs in the business of preventing disease, preventing discomfort, aiming for optimal function, and the highest quality of life. Lifestyle is one of the biggest contributors to our overall health, so much so that we can prevent and reverse over 80% of what brings us to the doctor with lifestyle modifications. Use the *highly Pinterest friendly* graphic below to help track and obtain your “ideal” levels. Be up front with your physician, and ask for a print out of your lab results. Tracking them yourself will prevent you from slowly progressing outside of “normal” ranges until you have something diagnosable, like type II diabetes.  You'll be informed, aware, and empowered to make lifestyle changes as you see fit to be truly well, rather than "not sick" and on the brink of chronic illness. 




No big tragedy yet? If there's one looming, you might be diagnosed with metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome is a diagnosis that means you're more likely to have heart disease, stroke, and/or diabetes. Each measurement in the 5 categories increases your likelihood of not surviving a serious health issue like a stroke or heart attack. Lowering your metabolic syndrome traits (if you have them) should be one of your highest priorities!


  • Fasting blood glucose greater than 100?
  • Waist Circumference (women >88cm, men >102cm)
  • Elevated Triglycerides (>150mg.dL)
  • Low HDL (<40mg/dL in men, and <50mg/dL in women)
  • Blood Pressure (systolic <130 mm Hg, diastolic >85 mm Hg)

1-2 of those markers = low risk

3-4 of those markers = moderate risk

5 of those markers = high risk

In the danger zone? Eating an anti-inflammatory diet with REAL food is an amazing place to start. For real great recipes for real food, I suggest you head on over to our friend Alexa at Simple Roots Wellness


Nothing trumps the one-on-one consult with a licensed healthcare professional. Everyone needs a well-qualified functional healthcare provider.  One that understands a comprehensive approach to your health.  

Many patients routinely visit their PCP each year, and get annual blood work without ever asking to see the results. I urge you, this part (the part where you ask for your results) is crucial! You may frequently be told you're “fine” and I sincerely hope you are. That "all clear" stamp is a sigh of relief that you deserve if you've been taking care of yourself! Taking charge means you'll be the first to know if those numbers creep into dangerous territory. I want to empower you to track and know your numbers. You may be full of symptoms and discomfort, but have numbers within the "normal" range applied to the rest of the population. You're responsible for your health. Your doctor is responsible for treating you when you're sick, but not necessarily when you are "sub-optimal". Avoid a diagnosis of diabetes, heart disease, obesity, or metabolic syndrome in the first place by being informed before it happens!

Hannah Anderson
Hannah Anderson