How Often Should You Really Be Getting Routine Blood Work?

For healthcare providers, blood tests are a helpful tool that can produce a holistic picture of a patient's health. "From checking your cholesterol levels and thyroid function to diagnosing infections, diseases, and other conditions, blood tests are often the first step in diagnosing dozens of conditions," internal medicine physician Dr. Fatma Deif states (via Scripps Health). But it doesn't stop there. Blood tests can also zero in on organ function, metabolism, diet, and various lifestyle factors related to our health, according to experts at LaSante Health Center.

So what qualifies as routine blood work? First up is a complete blood count (CBC) test, which screens your red blood cells, white blood cells, hemoglobin, hematocrit, and platelets. This test allows a physician to pick up on any potential indicators for cancer, anemia, infection, nutritional deficiencies, and more. Next is a series of tests known as a basic metabolic panel (BMP), which zooms in on the specific elements that make up our blood. These include electrolytes, glucose, and sodium, to name a few. "The BMP gives us a wealth of information about your heart, muscles, bones, and organs, such as your liver and kidneys," explains Dr. Deif.

Your health status affects blood work frequency

Next is the complete metabolic panel (CMP) blood test, which measures additional elements of our blood — some of which include alkaline phosphate (ALP), albumin, and bilirubin (per Healthline). A complete metabolic panel can help diagnose conditions such as hepatitis, gallstones, cirrhosis, bile duct blockages, and more. Lastly, routine blood work also entails a lipid panel. This blood test can help predict your risk for cardiovascular disease by calculating both your good and bad cholesterol levels.

While there are a number of additional blood tests a doctor may issue, undergoing routine blood testing on a regular basis allows your physician to track your health data. With this, they can implement early intervention strategies (if needed) to protect against the development or worsening of a health condition. 

So what qualifies as a "regular basis?" The answer can vary by age, health status, and the type of blood test being administered. At a minimum, many physicians say you should get a blood test done annually at the time of your routine physical exam (via LaSante Health Center). For those with pre-existing health conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, or heart disease, experts at Lenco Diagnostic Laboratory suggest getting blood work done every three to six months, or at the recommendation of your doctor.