Yampa Valley Medical Center lab support tech Cheryl Stene places a blood tube into the centrifuge to begin processing.

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Yampa Valley Medical Center lab support tech Cheryl Stene places a blood tube into the centrifuge to begin processing.

Monday Medical: Blood testing 101

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For more information about lab tests and diseases, Yampa Valley Medical Center Laboratory Director Mary Poskus highly recommends the website 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 those of us who are “science-challenged.”

“Take it to the lab.”

When you read those words, what image comes to mind? People in white coats? CSI? Television has made laboratories into sexy places where crime scene investigators gather the evidence to put away the criminal of the day.

Move over, Horatio. The real heroes from our medical lab will take the spotlight in this article. It’s their role to find evidence of changes in your health.

Yampa Valley Medical Center’s lab is a busy place this time of year. The clinical laboratory scientists who work there gear up for a spike in blood tests, thanks to the “early blood draw” week (this week) and our upcoming annual Fall into Health Community Health Fair.

Some early blood draw appointments still are available this week, offering low-cost blood tests. Otherwise, if you are 60 or older, come to the Senior Health Fair on Oct. 15 at the Steamboat Springs Community Center.

Finishing out this busy month is the Community Health Fair at the YVMC campus on Oct. 23. This large event will offer free health information, numerous free health screenings, and a final opportunity to take advantage of low-cost blood tests.

Thanks to technology, our lab can handle high volumes of testing. In a typical month, nearly 9,000 tests are performed. With the Community Health Fair, Senior Health Fair and early blood draws in October, the YVMC lab expects to run more than 14,000 tests. If you are wondering about whether you should partake and what is involved, here are the basics:

■ Why get a blood test? YVMC’s Laboratory Director Mary Poskus explains.

“A blood test is a snapshot of your overall health at that moment in time,” Poskus said. “It is important to monitor your health because it changes from year to year, especially as you get older and develop more risk factors.”

■ What tests should I get? With an array of low-cost tests available, it is tempting to get as many as you can. But you may not need them all. Check with your personal health care provider about the type and frequency of testing you need.

■ What blood tests will be performed at this year’s health fair? Tests include a health profile test including cholesterol panel, liver function, kidney function, electrolyte, glucose and iron levels, and thyroid-stimulating hormone; a complete blood count; prostate-specific antigen, for men only; and hemoglobin A1C, for diabetes management.

■ How much blood is drawn? Less than eight milliliters of blood — that’s about a quarter-cup of coffee.

■ What happens once it is taken to the lab? First, your blood will be bar-coded with your personal information and the tests you have requested. This provides positive identification throughout the testing process. Next, your blood gets spun in a centrifuge to separate the components for testing.

■ What happens with the test results? All results will be mailed to patients with information explaining results. If a test reveals something abnormal, an employee from YVMC will call and provide more information about the results.

■ What is the advantage of early blood draws? You have the ability to choose a time for your blood test. The appointment will take 15 minutes. Another advantage is you still can attend the health fair later this month and take advantage of the free health screenings.

■ How do I sign up for early blood tests? Visit the website www.yvmc.org/healthfair, and read the information on that page. But hurry — many times already are taken and all registration ends Wednesday at noon.

■ If I miss the early blood draws, what is the advantage of pre-registering for blood tests at the health fair? We hope that by pre-registering online, it will save you some time at the Health Fair. No specific times for blood tests are assigned, so there can be a line, especially between 7:30 and 9 a.m. However, you will not need to wait in line to register. Pre-registration begins Thursday.

■ If I can’t make it this week, how do I get a blood test? You can get tests anytime through your personal physician. Also, direct access testing — lab tests without prescription — are available at YVMC’s Laboratory on weekdays. Once tests are taken at the lab, YVMC will keep these records in our Health Information Management department for future reference by you and your physician.

According to Poskus, YVMC’s team of clinical laboratory scientists has seen some pretty amazing things under the microscope. Instead of convicting criminals, they could help you improve your life.

Riley Polumbus is communications specialist at Yampa Valley Medical Center. She can be reached at riley.polumbus@yvmc.org.

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