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Haematocrit is usually tested as part of a full blood count and can be used for a variety of reasons.
Why take a Haematocrit blood test?
A haematocrit blood test can help to identify a variety of illnesses and conditions. It can be used to monitor treatment for anaemia or dehydration.
A normal haematocrit for men is between 40 and 54% while for women it is between 36 and 48%. The test is based upon plasma volume and so, dehydration can affect the overall result. Many anaemias can be diagnosed with a haematocrit and haemoglobin reading.
A haemoglobin blood test measures the amount of haemoglobin present in your blood. The haemoglobin concentration gives a good insight into the blood’s ability to carry oxygen around the body.
Because haemoglobin carries oxygen from the lungs to cells around the body, low levels can signify anaemia where your body isn’t getting enough oxygen. Anaemia can cause symptoms like weakness and fatigue. Whereas, a high level can be a sign of polycythaemia where there are too many red blood cells in circulation.
You should make sure you are adequately hydrated when testing your haemoglobin levels. If you’re not, it can cause an abnormally high result.
Red blood cells contain a protein called haemoglobin which gives them their distinctive red colour. Haemoglobin is responsible for transporting oxygen around the body to cells that require it, it also removes the waste product, carbon dioxide from circulation.
Why take a Red Blood Cell blood test?
There are certain tests that give an insight into the health of red blood cells. Red cell indices including mean cell volume, mean cell haemoglobin, mean cell haemoglobin concentration and red cell distribution width give measurements relating to the volume, size and amount of haemoglobin present in red blood cells. These measurements can help to diagnose or monitor conditions that affect the size and shape of red blood cells.
A red blood cell count, on the other hand, tells us how many red blood cells are in a litre of blood. High or low red blood cell counts can be indicative of disease.
White blood cells (WBC), also known as leucocytes, belong to the immune system and help to protect the body from infectious disease and invading pathogens. They are made in the bone marrow and can be found throughout the body. White blood cells can be classified into different groups, granulocytes, lymphocytes and monocytes.
Why take a WBC blood test?
A white blood cell count determines how many white blood cells are present in a sample of blood. The count is a good marker for the presence of illness or infection. When an infection is present, the white blood count will rise, a process called leucocytosis which usually arises from inflammation, bacterial infections and leukaemia.
What function do White Blood Cells have in the body?
The main function of white blood cells is to defend the body against infectious disease. The make up a significant part of the immune system. White blood cells can be split into different categories. White blood cells are all different shapes and sizes, some have multiple-lobed nuclei, others have a large round nucleus and some have granules within their cytoplasm to fight infection. However, they all have different roles within the immune system.
Neutrophils: Neutrophils are the most common white blood cells in circulation. They help to protect the body bacterial and fungi infection. Neutrophils are a type of phagocyte which means they can engulf and digest an invading pathogen.
Lymphocytes: There are two major forms of lymphocytes, B and T cells. These cells are the most important cells in the adaptive immune response where they are responsible for destroying invading pathogens.
Monocytes: Monocytes develop into one of two cell types, macrophages and dendritic cells. Macrophages are phagocytes while dendritic cells flag foreign cells for destruction by lymphocytes, making them antigen-presenting cells.
Eosinophils: Eosinophils are a type of granulocyte. Their roles include presentation of antigens, release of mediators for acute and chronic inflammation. Degranulation upon the presentation of helminth worms or parasites
Basophils: Basophils are also a type of granulocyte, releasing disease-fighting granules when they meet an infectious agent. The substances contained in granules include: Histamine, Heparin, Peroxidase, Platelet-activating factor.
You can check your level of white blood cells with Forth’s Vitality and Ultimate blood tests. For those who lead active lifestyles Forth also offers a home finger-prick blood test called Body Fit which includes analysis of white blood cells as well as 17 other biomarkers.
CRP High sensitivity CRP is used to look for infection and can also be used to test individual risk for cardiovascular disease. Hs-CRP is an inflammatory biomarker and can be used to detect individuals who are at a greater risk of heart attack or stroke. Inflammation plays a key role in atherothrombosis, a condition that is a major cause of acute coronary syndromes and cardiovascular death. It causes the development of plaques in the blood vessels which can dislodge and go on to block the blood flow to the heart or brain causing a heart attack, stroke and/or death.
As hs-CRP is an inflammatory biomarker, it can be increased in other types of illnesses. The hs-CRP test can identify inflammation but can’t pinpoint exactly what is causing it. So, raised levels may be caused by bacterial infections, arthritis or intense exercise.
Total protein measures the total amount of protein present in the blood. There are two main types of protein in the blood; albumin and globulin. Albumin transports many small molecules around the body, but its main purpose is to stop fluid from leaking from blood vessels. Globulins are a family of proteins that make up a large portion of serum proteins and have many functions within the human body.
Why take a Total Protein blood test?
A total protein test measures the combined amount of both albumin and globulin. The test can be used to diagnose many health conditions such as kidney disease, liver disease and malnutrition.
Low total protein levels can indicate kidney or liver disease while high total protein may be indicative of dehydration.
Globulins are a family of proteins that are not soluble in water but do dissolve in dilute salt solutions. Globulins are made by both the liver and the immune system and make up a large proportion of blood serum protein.
Proteins are essential building blocks of all cells and tissues. These proteins are needed for our overall health as well as growth and development. There are two types of serum protein, albumin and globulins. Different proteins make up the globulin family and many bind with haemoglobin in the blood while some are involved in the transportation of metals and others are part of the immune system’s response to fighting infection.
Globulin levels can rise in response to some infections and diseases. Equally, it can reduce because of some conditions, illnesses and deficiencies.
Why take an Alkaline Phosphatase blood test?
If levels are high, an alkaline phosphatase blood test can help to identify bone or liver disorders. If other liver tests such as alanine aminotransferase and bilirubin are also raised, then this is usually indicative of liver issues. The liver is a major organ that is responsible for filtering the blood from the digestive tract as well as detoxifying chemicals and metabolising drugs. Therefore, it is important to check it is working effectively and is healthy, particularly if you have an unhealthy diet or lead a sedentary lifestyle.
Bilirubin is the substance that causes the yellow pigmentation in bruises and the yellow colour of jaundice. There are two types of measurement for bilirubin increased total or unconjugated and conjugated bilirubin. Increased unconjugated bilirubin can be caused by certain anaemias or a transfusion reaction. Whereas an elevated conjugated bilirubin level can be a result of a blockage in the liver or bile ducts, liver infections such as hepatitis, cirrhosis, drug reaction, long-term alcohol abuse or trauma.
What Is Gamma GT? Gamma-glutamyltransferase or Gamma GT (GGT) is an enzyme found predominantly in the liver. The blood level of GGT increases if the liver becomes injured or if the bile ducts become obstructed affecting the flow of bile. Therefore, GGT is a good biomarker for detecting liver disease and bile duct injury.
Why take a Gamma GT blood test?
Gamma-glutamyltransferase is a good biomarker for detecting liver disease, especially alcohol-related liver disease. You may require a GGT test if you are displaying symptoms of liver injury. It can also help to identify why the concentration of alkaline phosphatase (ALP) may be increased. For example, if both ALP and GGT are raised then this is indicative of some liver disease or disease of the bile duct. Whereas a raised ALP level alone usually indicates bone disease.
Alanine aminotransferase or ALT is an enzyme located primarily in the liver and kidneys. The level of ALT in the blood is usually low, however, a rise in serum levels is indicative of liver damage. A high level of ALT can usually be detected before obvious signs of liver injury occur, such as jaundice.
An ALT blood test is used to screen for liver disease or injury. It measures the amount of ALT in the blood. Increased serum levels of ALT may also confirm muscle damage if there is an absence of symptoms which may indicate liver damage. ALT along with aspartate aminotransferase (AST) are the most commonly used biomarkers in the clinical diagnosis of liver damage.
ALT levels increase when the liver is damaged potentially because of alcohol abuse, medication use, cirrhosis, muscle injury, kidney damage, liver infection as well as trauma. Therefore, if you are concerned about the health of your liver you may choose an ALT blood test. Equally, if you have recently experienced muscle damage your ALT levels may be raised.
Albumin is a protein which is made in the liver and is a good indicator of liver or kidney disease. Albumin is a transport protein for several substances including calcium, zinc, free fatty acids and bilirubin. It also has important functional roles such as the transportation of hormones and drugs. It also helps to maintain the oncotic pressure within blood plasma and so prevents fluid from leaking out into the blood vessels unnecessarily. Albumin is the most abundant protein found in the blood.
Why take an Albumin blood test?
Albumin, along with alanine aminotransferase (ALT), alkaline phosphatase (ALP), bilirubin, gamma GT, globulin and total protein are tested to check the health of your liver. Test is analysed at our UK accredited lab and results are reviewed by a GP.
What role does Albumin play in the body?
Albumin plays several roles in the human body. The concentration of circulating albumin in the blood is directly associated with liver health as well as nutritional status. If the amount of circulating albumin is low, then this can be an indication of liver or renal damage.
Low albumin levels (AKA hypoalbuminemia) can also be a sign of malnutrition. The process of eating stimulates the production of albumin in the liver and keeps the amount of albumin in the blood at a regular level. However, malnutrition or individuals consuming a low protein diet may present with low levels.
Albumin levels can also affect calcium and other protein bound biomarker levels. In the blood, calcium is bound to proteins, mainly albumin. Therefore, if the albumin concentration is low then this can also reduce the total calcium concentration too but not the bioactive calcium. This is why an adjusted calcium is usually reported. There is some controversy between low albumin levels and the risk of osteoporosis. However, some scientific studies state that low albumin levels can increase the risk of developing osteoporosis particularly at the neck of femur (long thigh bone), hip and spine.
In our cells, iron is bound to proteins to form complexes called ferritin and hemosiderin. The main storage protein is ferritin which is found predominantly in the liver. Ferritin is also found in the spleen, bone marrow and muscle cells. As some ferritin is found circulating in the blood, it forms the best indicator of the amount of iron stored in the body.
How does Ferritin affect my wellbeing?
If you have reduced ferritin levels due to iron deficiency it can make you feel unwell. Some of the clinical symptoms of iron deficiency anaemia can include, pale skin, fatigue, very low energy levels, headaches, difficulty breathing, dry skin and hair, restless leg syndrome, increased heartbeat.
Anaemia can affect your ability to concentrate and may negatively affect your work performance. This is because there is reduced transportation of oxygen in anaemia which can have a serious effect on your energy. The red blood cells are smaller when anaemia is present causing fatigue and breathlessness.
If your ferritin levels are high this could be a sign of iron overload and may be due to an inherited condition known as haemochromatosis. Haemochromatosis or iron overload can cause, fatigue or feeling tired all the time, feeling weak, joint pain, weight loss, women may have irregular periods, men may find it difficult to get or keep an erection.
Other causes of increased ferritin levels may be obesity, kidney failure, inflammation, uncontrolled malignancy, chronic liver disorders and rheumatoid arthritis.
Inflammation can be a cause of raised ferritin levels. Ferritin may be more indicative of inflammation in overweight or obese people rather than due to iron status.
Folate is the name given to a group of compounds and is derived from the word ‘foliage’. Folate or folic acid naturally occurs in foods such as spinach, green vegetables and liver. Folate is also known as vitamin B9 and has crucial roles in the production of DNA.
Human beings must get their intake of folate from their diet as we are unable to make it ourselves. Folate is particularly important during pregnancy as it is needed for adequate foetal and placental development. All females are advised to take 400 micrograms of folic acid while they try to get pregnant and then for the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. This helps to ensure the baby’s spine develops properly and reduces the risk of neural tube defects including spina bifida.
We also need folate for the development of our red blood cells, for the formation of DNA and to enable our nerves to function effectively.
How does Folate affect my Wellbeing?
Folic acid is needed for the proper development of red blood cells. If this is not the case, then macrocytic anaemia can occur. This is where the red blood cells are unable to carry oxygen as efficiently and can cause large red blood cells.
Usually, folate is also analysed alongside vitamin B12 as these can both be markers for macrocytic anaemias. They can also both be used to look at nutritional status especially if malnutrition is suspected. Both B vitamins are needed for adequate red cell development, cell repair and DNA synthesis.
How can I improve my result?
Folate can only be acquired from the diet and so this may be the best place to start with improving and maintaining folate levels. Supplementation may be required particularly during pregnancy.
Good sources of folate include: spinach, kale, brussel sprouts, cabbage, broccoli, liver, shellfish, whole-grain foods, beef and yeast extracts, fortified cereals.
Exercise is believed to be key to managing stress and reducing anxiety and depression. You should aim to exercise for 30-60 minutes most days of the week to feel the full benefits of exercise. However, you should bear in mind that anaemia can seriously affect your energy levels. Therefore, you may find that your performance may be affected if you are anaemic.
Supplementation may be required if your levels are low. However, this can mask any anaemia which may also be caused by vitamin B12 deficiency. You should consult your GP before beginning supplementation.
Vitamin D is important for bone strength as well as energy levels, mood, and immune health. You can check vitamin D levels using our at-home vitamin D test.
Vitamin D is needed by the body to facilitate the uptake of calcium from the diet. It is also needed for the regulation of phosphate from food, too. Therefore, it has a key role in maintaining bone health as well as the proper functioning of our immune system, muscle function, energy levels and helps to reduce inflammation. Vitamin D is needed by the body to regulate the amount of calcium and phosphate in the body. Both nutrients are essential for bone, tooth and muscle health, without it deformities such as rickets and osteomalacia can occur.
There is two forms of vitamin D, 25 hydroxyvitamin D and 1,25 dihydroxy vitamin D. The most common form is 25 hydroxyvitamin D and it is the most useful indicator of vitamin D status. 25 hydroxyvitamin D stays in the blood for longer and at higher concentrations.
There are two sources of vitamin D available to humans: it is produced in the skin following exposure to sunlight, taken in through the diet via food and supplements.
Low levels of vitamin D can indicate deficiency. In children, vitamin D deficiency can cause rickets. Deficiency of vitamin D prevents dietary calcium and phosphorus from being absorbed efficiently. Therefore, the deficiency can result in rickets which causes bone pain, poor growth as well as soft and weak bones which leads to bone deformities. Rickets was almost eradicated in the western world in the 20th century as foods like margarine and breakfast cereals were fortified with vitamin D, but more recently it has made a comeback.
In adults, vitamin D deficiency can lead to osteomalacia. The main symptoms are: bone pain, muscle pain, muscle cramps, fractures, gait disorders, increased risk of falling particularly in the elderly.
Vitamin D deficiency can also cause the following symptoms: fatigue, bone pain, recurrent infections, hair loss, muscle pain, depression.
Vitamin D toxicity usually occurs when too much of the vitamin is supplemented. Some of the symptoms include: nausea, anorexia, constipation, headaches, high blood pressure, kidney stones, Calcium toxicity.
Magnesium is an abundant mineral which the body needs for many functions, including energy production, nerve function and muscle contraction. As the body can’t make it, we must acquire magnesium through the diet where it is absorbed via the small intestine. Approximately 50% of the body’s total magnesium is joined to calcium and phosphorus to make bone.
Why take a Magnesium blood test?
A magnesium blood test measures the amount of magnesium present in the blood. There is usually only a small amount, around 1%, of the body’s total magnesium in the blood. Magnesium levels may fluctuate if you have a condition affecting your kidney or intestine function. Magnesium levels can interfere with calcium level regulation and low magnesium levels can make it harder for low calcium levels to increase.
You can test your magnesium levels by purchasing a simple at-home finger prick test kit which is then analysed at an accredited lab. Forth offers a number of blood tests which include magnesium such as our Nutri-check test and Menopause Health blood test. A magnesium blood test is also available in some of our bigger blood test profiles such as Vitality which tests over 30 biomarkers integral to good health.
What function does Magnesium have in the body?
Magnesium is a co-factor in over 300 biochemical reactions including protein synthesis, muscle and nerve transmission and blood pressure regulation. So, it is important we acquire enough magnesium in our diet to fulfil the needs of the body. Magnesium is also vital for the structural function of proteins, mitochondria and nucleic acids.
Magnesium stabilises many enzymes, particularly those involved in energy production. Energy is essential for many of the body’s functions such as muscle contraction, production of fats, proteins and nucleic acids. For example, during muscle contraction magnesium is involved in the reuptake of calcium allowing contraction to take place. Magnesium also has an important role in bone mineralisation.
How do changes in Magnesium affect health and Wellbeing?
Magnesium has many functions within the body and so fluctuations in the levels of the mineral can affect our health and wellbeing. For example, low magnesium (hypomagnesemia) is associated with neurological issues like migraines, depression and epilepsy. It is uncommon for magnesium deficiency to occur in otherwise healthy individuals because the kidneys regulate its excretion. However, there are certain health conditions which can cause excessive magnesium losses or cause habitually low intakes such as chronic alcoholism and taking certain medications.
If your magnesium intake is routinely low, then this can cause changes in biochemical pathways, increasing the risk of illnesses, such as: high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, type ii diabetes, osteoporosis, migraine headaches.
Equally, too much magnesium (hypermagnesemia) can make you feel quite unwell, inducing symptoms such as diarrhoea, abdominal cramping and nausea. Diarrhoea and the laxative effect of magnesium are caused by the osmotic activity in the intestine by unabsorbed salts and the promotion of gastric motility.
Vitamin B12 is part of the B complex of vitamins alongside vitamin B9 or folate. They are essential vitamins, so the body is unable to make them itself and so instead must take them in through the diet. Vitamin B12 is required for the formation of red blood cells as well as for forming a coat around nerve cells called myelin. Vitamin B12 plays a key role in several physiological functions. It is needed for the maturation of red blood cells, if it is not present then this can lead to pernicious anaemia which can have neurological side effects. Vitamin B12 is also required for cell metabolism and function, so deficiency can have detrimental effects on the body’s organ systems. Deficiency can be subtle and non-specific which can make diagnosis difficult. The body can store vitamin B12 which means deficiency may occur over a prolonged period. The body can store up to 5mg of vitamin B12 and as the UK government recommends a daily intake of 1.5 micrograms per day, depleting these stores can take several years.
How does Vitamin B12 affect my Wellbeing?
Vitamin B12 can only be derived from animal sources such as meat, fish and dairy. Therefore, deficiency can be common amongst the vegan and/or vegetarian community. It can also be present in pregnant women as their requirements will increase. Older people are also susceptible possibly due to poor nutrition. Some of the symptoms of B12 deficiency include: fatigue, anaemia, neurological features, sore tongue, bone marrow suppression, cardiomyopathy.
Usually, folate is also analysed alongside vitamin B12 as these can both be markers for macrocytic anaemias (where red cells are larger than they should be and have a reduced oxygen-carrying capacity). They can also both be used to look at nutritional status especially if malnutrition is suspected. Both B vitamins are needed for adequate red cell development, cell repair and DNA synthesis.
High levels of vitamin B12 are not usually observed but may be seen with leukaemia or liver dysfunction.
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