A simple blood test can help you and your doctor make an assessment of overall bodily health, as well as detect possible medical problems.

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A simple blood test can help you and your doctor make an assessment of overall bodily health, as well as detect possible medical problems.

Blood tests can reveal important health factors

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For more information about the YVMC Fall Into Health community health fair, check the event calendar on Yampa Valley Medical Center's Web site at www.yvmc.org.>

If history is an accurate indicator, one phone at Yampa Valley Medical Center should start ringing off the hook today. This is the first day the hospital is taking appointments for "early-bird" blood draws that are part of the upcoming community health fair.

More than 900 individuals usually rely on the annual health fair for low-cost blood tests, and almost half of them choose the early option. This year, the appointment-only tests will be held Oct. 7 to 10. The health fair - called "Fall Into Health" - is set for Oct. 25 at the YVMC campus.

Longtime locals may be a little confused by this timing, and that certainly is understandable. For the past quarter-century, YVMC sponsored the 9Health Fair each spring. This year, YVMC decided to make the popular event a true community-based health fair and move the date to autumn.

Fall Into Health will provide the same free and low-cost health screenings and health information as in the past, plus some new features. The favorite offering is sure to be the blood chemistry tests.

Why do people get regular blood tests? What is the value of comparing blood test results during a period of several years?

For answers, we turned to YVMC Laboratory Director Mary Poskus, who is coordinating the blood draws for Fall Into Health.

"A blood test is a snapshot of your overall health at that moment in time," Poskus said. "We can learn a lot from someone's blood chemistry, including liver function, kidney function and electrolyte balance.

"Many people depend on blood tests to measure cholesterol and blood glucose levels," Poskus continued. "These are important health indicators. In fact, an abnormal glucose level can be the first warning sign of diabetes, which is a very serious disease."

Poskus said Fall Into Health blood tests also includes the thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) test, which detects disorders of the thyroid gland. When the body produces too much thyroid hormone, the resulting hyperthyroidism accelerates the metabolism. This can create increased heart rate, anxiety, weakness, sleep problems and other issues.

The opposite problem is hypothyroidism, which occurs when the body produces too little thyroid hormone. The consequent slow-down of metabolism can cause weight gain, fatigue, cold intolerance, hair loss and additional health challenges.

Under the previous 9Health Fair system, all blood samples collected in Steamboat Springs were sent to a lab in Denver. This year, and in the future, the YVMC laboratory will perform the tests and keep the records at the hospital.

"The test results will be centralized here and stored electronically," Poskus explained. "To access your results, you won't have to save your paperwork or try to call the lab in Denver. From now on, this information will be at your doctor's fingertips on the computer."

Fall Into Health will offer blood chemistry tests for the same price as last year. The prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test for men and a complete blood count (CBC) are available for an additional cost.

"The PSA test can help detect prostate cancer in its earlier stages, when it is most treatable," Poskus said. "A CBC is often ordered when someone is feeling tired all the time to determine if anemia is present. It is also used to detect a viral or bacterial infection."

For more information about lab tests and diseases, Poskus highly recommends the Web site www.labtestsonline.org. This site provides details about all types of tests and diseases. Common questions are listed and answered in plain English, understandable even to people who are science-challenged.

To get an early blood test appointment, call 875-2758.

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