Unlocking Wellness: The Vital Role of Bloodwork and Doctor Visits for Adults Over 40

As people age, they experience a variety of both physical and mental changes. Regular doctor visits and lab work can help identify potential health problems early on when they're easier to treat. But what tests and lab work should you have and what do they mean?

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Unlocking Wellness: The Vital Role of Bloodwork and Doctor Visits for Adults Over 40
12 Min Read June 15th, 2023

As the hands of time turn and we venture further into the realm of aging, we embark upon a journey accompanied by a myriad of challenges and transformations. Amidst the graceful dance of silvered hair and the well-earned lines etched upon our faces, it becomes increasingly paramount to embrace proactive measures that safeguard our well-being. 

While the passage of years may bring its fair share of uncertainties, one aspect remains steadfast – the significance of regular doctor visits and the invaluable insights derived from comprehensive lab work. While some people, perhaps you, want to avoid seeing the doctor, getting check-ups and lab work will help you stay in top shape and catch health issues early while still treatable.

Regular blood work and lab testing are essential components of maintaining good health, particularly for adults aged 40 and above. Among the various types of tests, a Comprehensive Metabolic Profile (CMP) is a standard panel that provides valuable insights into an individual's overall health status. 

The CMP assesses several key markers, including blood glucose levels, kidney function, liver function, electrolyte balance, and protein levels. By evaluating these parameters, doctors can identify potential issues, monitor chronic conditions, and make informed decisions regarding treatment plans.

CMP Details

A Comprehensive Metabolic Profile (CMP) is a panel of blood tests that provides a comprehensive overview of an individual's overall health. It includes several key markers that assess different aspects of the body's functions. Here's a breakdown of what each test in a CMP measure and what normal and abnormal levels may indicate:

  1. Glucose: This test measures blood sugar levels. Normal levels are typically between 70-99 mg/dL when fasting. High levels may indicate diabetes or impaired glucose tolerance, while low levels may suggest hypoglycemia.
  2. Electrolytes: Electrolytes include sodium, potassium, and chloride, which help maintain fluid balance and support proper nerve and muscle function. Normal levels vary depending on the specific electrolyte and should fall within a certain range. Abnormal levels may indicate dehydration, kidney dysfunction, or imbalances in the body.
  3. Kidney Function Markers: These markers include blood urea nitrogen (BUN) and creatinine. They assess how well the kidneys are filtering waste products from the blood. Normal levels for BUN range between 7-20 mg/dL, while creatinine levels should be around 0.6-1.3 mg/dL. Elevated levels may suggest kidney problems or impaired kidney function.
  4. Liver Function Tests: These tests measure various enzymes and proteins produced by the liver, including alanine aminotransferase (ALT), aspartate aminotransferase (AST), alkaline phosphatase (ALP), and total bilirubin. Abnormal levels may indicate liver damage, inflammation, or impaired liver function.
  5. Protein Levels: Total protein and albumin levels assess the body's nutritional status and liver function. Normal levels range between 6.0-8.3 g/dL for total protein and 3.4-5.4 g/dL for albumin. Low levels may indicate malnutrition or liver disease.
  6. Calcium: This test measures the calcium level in the blood, which is crucial for strong bones, nerve function, and muscle contraction. Normal levels should fall within the 8.5-10.2 mg/dL range. High or low levels may suggest disorders related to calcium regulation.

A comprehensive metabolic panel is a vital tool for preventive medicine. It can help you and your doctor identify any risk factors or abnormalities that may affect your health and well-being. A CMP can help screen for diabetes, kidney disease, liver disease, and other metabolic disorders that can have serious complications if left untreated. A CMP can also help monitor your response to treatment and guide your health care decisions.

Remember, the normal ranges mentioned are general guidelines, and specific reference ranges may vary depending on the laboratory. If any results fall outside the normal range, it's essential to consult with a medical provider for further evaluation and interpretation of the findings. 

Lab tests, including the CMP, provide valuable insights into our body's functions and help identify potential health concerns, enabling early intervention and appropriate treatment.


One vital aspect of blood work for adults is the A1C test, which measures average blood glucose levels over the past three months. This test is crucial for individuals with diabetes or those at risk of developing the condition. By monitoring A1C levels, doctors can assess blood sugar control and adjust treatment strategies accordingly to minimize complications and maintain overall health.

Here's what you need to know about A1C levels:

  1. Normal A1C Range: The normal range for A1C is generally below 5.7%. This level indicates good blood sugar control and a lower risk of developing diabetes.
  2. Prediabetes Range: An A1C level between 5.7% and 6.4% suggests prediabetes, indicating an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Lifestyle changes, such as adopting a healthy diet and increasing physical activity, can help prevent or delay the onset of diabetes.
  3. Diabetes Range: An A1C level of 6.5% or higher typically indicates diabetes. This means that blood sugar levels are consistently elevated, and medical intervention is necessary to manage the condition effectively.

The Mayo Clinic explains how vital A1C testing is for anyone concerned with diabetes.

A1C testing shows better how well your diabetes treatment plan is working overall. A higher A1C level may signal the need for a change in your oral drugs, insulin regimen, or meal plan.

It's important to note that A1C levels may vary depending on individual factors and the specific guidelines established by medical professionals. 

The target A1C goal for individuals with diabetes is often around 7% or lower, but this may be adjusted based on factors like age, overall health, and the presence of other medical conditions.

When Does A1C Indicate Diabetes? 

A diagnosis of diabetes is typically confirmed when an individual's A1C level is 6.5% or higher. This indicates that their average blood sugar levels have been consistently elevated over the past three months. However, it's important to note that medical professionals consider various factors when making a diagnosis, and additional tests or clinical assessments may be necessary to confirm the presence of diabetes. It is always best to consult your doctor for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate management of the condition.

Regular monitoring of A1C levels is crucial for individuals with diabetes to assess their blood sugar control and make any necessary adjustments to their treatment plan. It serves as a valuable tool for both patients and health care providers to track progress, evaluate the effectiveness of interventions, and reduce the risk of diabetes-related complications.

If your A1C level falls outside the target range, it's important to work closely with your health team to develop a comprehensive diabetes management plan that may include lifestyle modifications, medication, and regular follow-up to optimize blood sugar control and maintain overall health.

Other Lab Work

Additionally, doctors may recommend other essential lab tests, such as lipid profiles to assess cholesterol levels, complete blood count (CBC) to evaluate red and white blood cell counts, thyroid function tests, and vitamin D levels. These tests provide valuable information about cardiovascular health, immune function, hormonal balance, and overall nutritional status.

Maintaining optimal health involves monitoring various aspects of our well-being. Let's explore each of these tests and what normal and abnormal results may indicate:

  • Cholesterol Levels: Cholesterol is a type of fat in our blood that is essential for bodily functions. However, high levels of certain types of cholesterol, particularly low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, can increase the risk of heart disease. Desirable total cholesterol levels are generally below 200 mg/dL. LDL cholesterol levels should ideally be below 100 mg/dL. In contrast, high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, often called "good" cholesterol, should be higher than 40 mg/dL for men and 50 mg/dL for women. Triglyceride levels, another type of fat in the blood, should be below 150 mg/dL.
  • Complete Blood Count (CBC): A CBC is a standard blood test that evaluates various components of the blood, including red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. It provides insights into overall health and helps diagnose various conditions. Here are some key markers:
  • Red Blood Cells: Normal ranges for red blood cell count are approximately 4.5-5.5 million cells/microliter for men and 4.0-5.0 million cells/microliter for women. Abnormal levels may indicate anemia or other blood disorders.
  • White Blood Cells: Normal white blood cell count ranges are typically between 4,500 and 11,000 cells/microliter. Elevated levels may suggest an infection or inflammation, while low levels may indicate a weakened immune system.
  • Platelets: Platelets play a crucial role in blood clotting. Normal platelet count ranges from 150,000 to 450,000 platelets/microliter. Abnormal levels can affect clotting ability and may indicate bleeding disorders or certain diseases.
  • Thyroid Function Tests: Thyroid function tests assess the levels of thyroid hormones in the blood, including thyroxine (T4) and thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH). These hormones regulate metabolism and energy production. Normal TSH levels typically fall between 0.4 and 4.0 milli-international units per liter (mIU/L). T4 levels vary depending on factors such as age and gender. Abnormal results may indicate an overactive or underactive thyroid.
  • Vitamin D Levels: Vitamin D is essential for bone health, immune function, and overall well-being. Normal levels of vitamin D, specifically 25-hydroxyvitamin D (25(OH)D), can vary, but they are generally considered adequate at 20-50 nanograms per milliliter (ng/mL). Deficiency in vitamin D can contribute to conditions like osteoporosis and compromised immune function.

It's important to note that specific reference ranges may vary slightly between laboratories, and health professionals consider individual circumstances when interpreting results. 

If you receive any abnormal test results, it's essential to consult with your doctor for further evaluation and guidance on appropriate next steps. 

Getting Older? More Testing!

As individuals age, the frequency and types of lab tests may evolve. Doctors may emphasize monitoring specific markers, such as kidney function, bone density, and inflammation levels. Regular health screenings and discussions with medical providers become increasingly important to address age-related changes and potential health risks.

Here are some common tests that are often included in regular check-ups for individuals in these age groups:

  1. Colon Cancer Screening: Starting at age 50, regular screenings for colon cancer are recommended. These screenings may include a colonoscopy, stool tests, or other imaging techniques to detect any abnormal growths or signs of cancer in the colon or rectum.
  2. Mammogram: Regular mammograms are recommended for women to screen for breast cancer. The frequency and timing of mammograms may vary depending on individual risk factors and guidelines from health providers.
  3. Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA) Test: The PSA blood test may be recommended for men to screen for prostate cancer. The decision to undergo this test should be discussed with a health provider, considering individual risk factors and potential benefits and limitations of the test.
  4. Bone Density Test: As individuals age, the risk of osteoporosis and fractures increases. A bone density test, such as a dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA) scan, can assess bone strength and determine if osteoporosis is present or if preventive measures need to be taken.
  5. Eye Exam: Regular eye exams are important to monitor vision changes, detect eye diseases, and assess overall eye health. This includes evaluating visual acuity, eye pressure (for glaucoma screening) and examining the retina and other structures of the eye.
  6. Blood Pressure Monitoring: Regular blood pressure checks are vital to assess cardiovascular health. High blood pressure (hypertension) is a common condition among older adults and can increase the risk of heart disease and stroke.

Stool Samples - What are They Used For?

Stool samples are commonly used for diagnostic purposes to assess gastrointestinal health and detect certain conditions or infections. Here are a few scenarios in which stool samples may be needed and what they are looking for:

  • Digestive Disorders: Stool samples may be requested when investigating digestive disorders such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), celiac disease, or gastrointestinal infections. The sample can provide information about the presence of inflammation, blood, or abnormal microorganisms in the digestive tract.
  • Gastrointestinal Infections: Stool samples are often required to identify the presence of bacterial, viral, or parasitic infections in the digestive system. This includes conditions like bacterial gastroenteritis, viral gastroenteritis (commonly known as the stomach flu), or parasitic infections such as Giardia or Cryptosporidium.
  • Occult Blood Testing: Stool samples may be used to check for the presence of occult (hidden) blood. This testing is commonly performed to screen for colorectal cancer or investigate gastrointestinal bleeding from various causes, such as ulcers, polyps, or hemorrhoids.
  • Fecal Occult Blood Test (FOBT): FOBT is a specific type of stool test used as a screening tool for colorectal cancer. It detects tiny amounts of blood in the stool that are not visible to the naked eye. Positive results may prompt further investigations, such as colonoscopy, to evaluate the cause of the bleeding.
  • Monitoring Digestive Health: Stool samples can also help monitor certain gastrointestinal conditions or evaluate the effectiveness of treatments. For example, in individuals with chronic conditions like Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis, regular stool samples can assess disease activity or response to medication.

To collect a stool sample, a small portion of the stool is typically collected using a clean container or collection kit provided by a health

provider. Following specific instructions for proper collection, storage, and transportation is essential to ensure accurate results.

If a stool sample is requested, it is important to consult with a health provider who can provide detailed instructions and explain the specific purpose of the test. The stool sample results can help guide the diagnosis, treatment, and management of various gastrointestinal conditions or infections.

Don't Avoid the Doctor

Regular medical check-ups are crucial for individuals over 40, as they play a vital role in maintaining good health and detecting potential health issues before they become more serious. 

Many people avoid going to the doctor because they are afraid of hearing bad news or they think they cannot afford it. However, avoiding the doctor can have serious consequences, especially after the age of 40, when the risk of developing chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer increases. Seeing the doctor can help prevent these diseases or manage them better if you already have them.

Even if you feel healthy and have no specific symptoms, routine check-ups allow health professionals to assess your overall well-being, monitor vital health markers, and address any concerns or risk factors that may arise with age. 

By scheduling regular doctor visits, you can receive preventive care, such as vaccinations, screenings, and health counseling, to help identify and manage conditions like high blood pressure, diabetes, cholesterol imbalances, and certain cancers at early stages. 

Don't wait for symptoms to arise before seeking medical attention – staying proactive and engaging in regular check-ups can lead to early intervention, optimal health outcomes, and a higher quality of life as you age.

Blood work and lab testing are crucial in maintaining and promoting overall good health for anyone over 40. Through a Comprehensive Metabolic Profile, doctors gain valuable insights into various aspects of a patient's health, allowing them to diagnose conditions, monitor chronic illnesses, and develop tailored treatment plans. Additional lab tests, such as A1C and lipid profiles, provide specific information related to diabetes management and cardiovascular health. 

Regular health screenings and appropriate lab tests become critical to address age-related changes and ensure optimal well-being as individuals age.

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About the Author

Linda Maxwell is a retired journalist who now focuses on writing about topics that captivate her, such as aging, health, long-term care, and retirement issues. Her aim is to maintain an active and engaged mind, and through her writing, she hopes to help others stay positively engaged with life.

LTC News Contributor Linda Maxwell

Linda Maxwell

Contributor since December 11th, 2017

Editor's Note

When you're young, you usually don't think about getting old, but age creeps up on all of us, and being prepared will make the aging process easier on you and your loved ones.

Being proactive with your health will surely pay dividends as you age. However, aging will happen, and the consequences will impact your family and finances.

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