You’re sitting at the doctor’s office waiting for the lab to call your name. It’s that time of year to get your annual, routine blood test to make sure you’re in good health. In 2018, it was found that nearly 40 percent of all Americans skip routine tests recommended by their doctor – including blood and urine screenings. Even though it may not seem like a big deal to skip these “optional” tests, your doctor may not be able to catch certain warning signs by seeing the results of these labs.
If you’re at risk for certain health conditions like high cholesterol/blood pressure, diabetes, or vascular disease, you may want to schedule routine checkups more frequently. Preventing these common health conditions can be easy, especially if your doctor has the information they need to look out for potential issues down the road.
Even if you’re the type of person to get blood tests regularly, have you ever thought about what blood tests screen for? It’s important to understand their crucial role as well as how they can help people avoid life-threatening conditions like peripheral artery disease (PAD), stroke, heart attack, and gangrene.
What Are Routine Blood Tests Looking For?
Physicians typically recommend going in for a routine blood test once a year, but there are a few other reasons you may get them done more frequently. If you’re on the “edge” of being at-risk for high cholesterol, blood pressure, diabetes, etc. and need to be aware of your numbers. Also, if you’re experiencing chronic symptoms and your doctor is trying to pinpoint what the issue might be. Lastly, if you’re dieting, exercising, or training you may want to go in for more frequent blood tests. A few of the most common blood tests include:
- Complete blood count (CBC): Most common blood test that measures white and red blood cells and determines general health and nutritional status, as well as screen for potential disorders/health conditions.
- Lipid panel: The third most common that measures cholesterol and triglyceride levels, as well as determines other vascular risks.
- Hemoglobin tests, such as A1C: Can monitor and diagnose serious glucose issues like diabetes.
- Liver panel: Used to assess liver functionality and overall ability to filter toxins out of blood.
- Basic metabolic panel: The second most important blood test that measures blood sugar, carbon dioxide, nitrogen, and creatinine levels, as well as kidney function.
- Prothrombin time (PT): Important to test ordered to test how long it takes for your blood to clot effectively.
- Thyroid hormone panel: Helps the doctor and patient understand how the thyroid is functioning.
Remember, you are your own health advocate. If you’re worried about a persistent symptom, ask your doctor about scheduling a blood screening. Your doctor can order a blood test if they deem it necessary.
Blood tests are used to diagnose numerous disorders and conditions. Although, have you ever wondered if they are used to detect vascular issues like peripheral artery disease?
Blood Tests to Determine Peripheral Artery Disease
Although blood tests can catch potential health risks that could lead to PAD, they cannot diagnose vascular conditions by themselves. There is not a specific blood test for peripheral artery disease; however, cholesterol screenings and high blood sugar tests can help doctors predict if you are at an increased risk. If your recent blood screenings show that you have increased levels of cholesterol, glucose, or blood pressure (especially over an extended period of time), your doctor can work with you to determine if PAD could be a risk down the road.
By looking at previous blood tests and comparing them with new ones, your physician can suggest preventive measures to help you avoid PAD from developing or worsening. So, even though blood tests don’t test for peripheral artery disease, they can help notify you of potential risks before it worsens.
A cholesterol screening, also referred to as a lipid panel, is a simple blood draw test that will let you know if you have elevated levels of cholesterol in your bloodstream. This test will analyze your blood for a few different factors: high-density lipoprotein (HDL), low-density lipoprotein (LDL), triglycerides, and total cholesterol. If you have HDL levels greater than or equal to 60 mg/dL, then you may need to create a preventative plan to lower your cholesterol. Lowering your cholesterol can help you avoid or slow the progression of plaque buildup within your arteries, which can result in PAD.
Even though a cholesterol screening is not a definitive test for vascular disease, it can be a great preventative tool used in conjunction with another type of PAD exam. It is recommended that healthy adults go in for a cholesterol screening every five to six years. However, if you have a family or personal history of vascular disease, heart attack, stroke, or diabetes, your doctor may prescribe a cholesterol screening more frequently.
High Blood Sugar Test
There are a few different high blood sugar tests your doctor may order depending on the situation; these include: Hemoglobin A1C, random blood sugar, fasting blood sugar, and glucose tolerance test. These high blood sugar tests can help your doctor understand if you currently have diabetes, are pre-diabetic, or just have elevated levels that need to be watched closely.
Just like cholesterol screenings, high blood sugar tests can’t be used to diagnose PAD, but they can act as preventative measures. When you know you have elevated glucose levels, you can get tested for peripheral artery disease and other vascular conditions. Prevention begins at determining your individual risk factors and actively working towards living a healthy, active life.
Do Doctors Use Blood Tests for Peripheral Artery Disease?
Blood tests for peripheral artery disease are used only for preventative measures. Cholesterol screenings and high blood sugar tests can be used to determine if you are at an increased risk for plaque accumulation. If you are, your doctor will recommend that you get a peripheral artery disease test. Instead of a blood test, live arterial x-rays or blood pressure tests to diagnose PAD are routinely used. A routine blood test may not specifically inform your doctor you have or could have PAD.
If you’re concerned you may have PAD or are exhibiting symptoms, you should inform your doctor before your cholesterol screening or high blood sugar test so they can take note. Additionally, blood tests for peripheral artery disease will not show the severity of your vascular condition. If you have elevated cholesterol or glucose levels, this does not mean you have arterial plaque buildup. However, it does mean that you should ask your provider if you can schedule tests to diagnose PAD. If you have a family/personal history of arterial disease, you should visit a vascular specialist.
How Do You Test for Vascular Disease?
Even though a blood test for peripheral artery disease can tell you about risk factors that could contribute to the development of plaque, they can’t definitively test for vascular diseases like PAD on their own. Thankfully, there are a few exams your vascular specialist may order so you can get a clear diagnosis; these include an Ankle-Brachial Index (ABI) exam or an angiogram.
Peripheral artery disease tests are often conducted at an outpatient vascular center. An ABI test will measure the blood pressure in your arm compared to that of your leg and give you a score to determine the severity of your arterial blockage. An angiogram is a live X-ray where the specialist can visualize the inside of your arteries. Both are safe, effective diagnostic tools specialists can utilize to test for vascular disease.
Treating PAD After Diagnosis
It’s important to stay on top of your vascular health. You should always get routine blood screenings, visit your physician for your annual physical, and never miss a peripheral vascular disease test your doctor may order. By ruling out potential health issues like high cholesterol, diabetes, high blood pressure, and PAD, you can live a full, active life.
If you’ve recently gone in for a peripheral artery disease test such as an ABI, angiogram, or blood test that may suggest you have PAD, it’s important to take action. Warning signs and symptoms of arterial disease shouldn’t be ignored. Give us a call at 888-773-2193 or schedule conveniently online to learn more about PAD diagnosis, treatment, and success stories.