Understanding Your Blood Test Lab Results

Learn all about blood biomarkers and how to interpret your blood test results.

Kalyn Weber
By Kalyn Weber
Korana Braun | Content Editor | InsideTracker
Edited by Korana Braun

Published January 4, 2024.

a row of blood test tubes sitting on top of a blue rack

For many of us, an annual physical includes a blood test. While getting your blood drawn is relatively straightforward, it can feel like you need a medical degree to understand the results that come back to you from the lab.

With InsideTracker, you can get a blood test any time—not just at your annual physical—that includes measuring more markers than what insurance for preventative screening covers. An InsideTracker analysis takes a deep dive into each biomarker measured and what may be impacting it and science-backed recommendations based on your results, lifestyle, and goals for improving unoptimized markers.

Below are some common blood tests, the blood biomarker measures, and what they mean for your health.

» Upload blood test results from your doctor with InsideTracker's Blood Results Upload Subscription

Note: As of now, InsideTracker measures up to 48 blood biomarkers. The biomarkers in this article with a * next to them are currently not part of InsideTracker’s plans.

Blood biomarkerNormal range
Glucose65 - 99 mg/dL
Sodium135 - 145 mmol/L
Chloride*98 - 106 mmol/L
Potassium3.7 - 5.2 mmol/L
Creatinine0.7 - 0.3 mg/dL for men 0.6 - 1.1 mg/dL for women.
Total protein*6.0 - 8.3 gm/dL
Blood urea nitrogen (BUN)*6 - 20 mg/dL
Total bilirubin*0.2 - 1.9 mg/dL
Aspartate aminotransferase (AST)10 - 34 IU/L
Alkaline phosphatase (ALP)*44 - 47 IU/L
Alanine aminotransferase (ALT)8 - 37 IU/L
Red blood cells (RBCs)4.2 - 5.9 million/mm3
White blood cells (WBCs)4,300 - 10,800 WBC/mm3
Hemoglobin13 - 18 g/dL for men 12 - 16 g/dL for women
Hematocrit36% - 52%
Ferritin12 and 300 ng/mL for men 12 - 150 ng/mL for women
Total cholesterol125 - 200 mg/dL
Low-density lipoproteins (LDL)< 110 mg/dL
High-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL)45 - 200 mg/dL
Triglycerides< 150 mg/dL
Apolipoprotein B (ApoB)0 - 119 mg/dL
Testosterone2 - 45 ng/dL
DHEAS10 - 300 µg/dL
SHBG10 - 77 nmol/L in men 14 - 124 nmol/L in women
Cortisol4 - 22 ug/dL
Estradiol19 - 214 pg/mL
Progesterone0 - 21.5 ng/dL
Thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH)0.5 - 4.59 μIU/mL in men 0.4 - 4.7 μIU/m in women
HsCRP0.1 mg/L - 0.8 mg/L
Vitamin D30 - 100 ng/mL
Vitamin B12190 pg/mL - 950 pg/mL
Magnesium1.5 mg/dL - 2.5 mg/dL
RBC magnesium4 mg/dL - 6.4 mg/dL


A comprehensive metabolic panel blood test

The comprehensive metabolic panel (CMP) is a common blood test. The biomarkers tested can give an insight into one’s metabolic health—or the body’s ability to process and utilize the energy (food) we consume. These biomarkers can give a snapshot of your liver and kidney function, electrolyte balance, and blood sugar, among other critical functions.

Glucose: Glucose measures your fasting blood sugar level at the time of your blood draw. Glucose is the body’s main fuel source. It is a significant factor in overall health, longevity, blood pressure, and weight control.

The normal range for fasting blood glucose is 65-99 mg/dL.

Electrolytes: Electrolytes are critical for your body to function. Electrolyte levels are impacted by diet, whether a person is hydrated or dehydrated, and the amount of electrolytes excreted by the kidneys.

  • Sodium: Irregularities in sodium levels may indicate dehydration, excessive salt or certain medications, or dysfunction of the liver and kidneys. The normal range of blood sodium is 135-145 millimoles/liter (mmol/L).
  • Chloride*: A diet high in sodium and certain medications may impact your chloride levels. Out-of-range chloride levels can also indicate certain diseases, such as kidney disorders. The reference range for chloride is 98 to 106 mmol/L.
  • Potassium: Potassium is critical in regulating blood pressure, heartbeat, kidney function, calcium levels, and energy use in muscle cells. In active people, optimized potassium levels are associated with better endurance performance, stronger bones, and healthier cholesterol and glucose levels. A normal range is 3.7 to 5.2 mmol/L.

» Read more about sodium and potassium and why they are important for hydration

Kidney function blood test

A CMP also includes several markers that measure kidney function. These are:

Creatinine: This is a waste product the muscles produce due to normal daily activities. Healthy kidneys efficiently filter creatine from the blood and excrete it. Abnormal levels of this marker can indicate kidney dysfunction.

Normal creatinine levels are around 0.7 to 0.3 mg/dL for men and 0.6 to 1.1 mg/dL for women.

Total protein*: This marker tests for the amount of protein in the blood. Abnormal blood protein levels can indicate kidney or liver abnormalities, malnutrition, or malabsorption of critical nutrients.

Normal blood protein levels are between 6.0 and 8.3 gm/dL.

Blood urea nitrogen (BUN)*: BUN is a blood test done to measure the amount of a waste product from the kidneys, urea nitrogen. High levels of BUN may indicate dehydration or urinary tract obstruction.

Normal levels are generally between 6 and 20 mg/dL.

Liver function measures

A CMP also assesses several markers that measure liver function. These include:

Total bilirubin*: Bilirubin is a byproduct of the breakdown of old red blood cells (RBC) that is processed through the liver, becomes part of bile, and is then excreted through the intestines. While some bilirubin in the blood is normal, high or low levels of bilirubin can indicate liver disease, blood disorders, or a blockage of a bile duct or gallbladder.

Normal levels are between 0.2 and 1.9 mg/dL.

Aspartate aminotransferase (AST): AST is an enzyme found in the liver, heart, muscle tissue, and kidneys. This enzyme helps to metabolize proteins. High levels of AST in the blood likely indicate damage to tissues, like what is seen in the muscle tissues after a hard workout.

A normal range is 10 to 34 IU/L.

Alkaline phosphatase (ALP)*: ALP is an enzyme found in the liver, bones, kidneys, and digestive tract. Abnormal levels of this enzyme may indicate different health conditions and may need other blood tests to confirm.

The normal range of this enzyme is 44-47 IU/L.

Alanine aminotransferase (ALT): ALT is an enzyme found primarily in the liver (as well as some skeletal muscle). ALT's primary function is to convert stored glucose into energy. Elevated ALT levels in the blood may indicate liver or muscle cell damage.

ALT's normal range is 8-37 IU/L.

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Labs included in a complete blood count test (CBC)

The CBC, or complete blood count, is a blood test to take a broad look at overall health and assess for health conditions including anemia and infections.

Red blood cells (RBCs): RBCs transport oxygen throughout the body. Having a healthy number of red blood cells is critical for your body to have the energy it needs to function properly.

A normal range of RBCs is between 4.2 and 5.9 million cells per cubic millimeter or ccm.

White blood cells (WBCs): WBCs act as infection fighters in the immune system and can also be an indicator of inflammation throughout the body. Having a white blood cell count in the optimal range indicates a strong immune system and improved overall health.

A normal WBC range is between 4,300 and 10,800 cmm.

» Understand what a low white blood cell count mean

Hemoglobin: Hemoglobin is a protein found in red blood cells that plays a role in oxygen delivery from the lungs to the rest of the body. Optimal hemoglobin levels are linked to better performance in both strength and aerobic activities. Hemoglobin levels differ between men to women.

A normal range for Hgb is 13 to 18 g/dL for men and 12 to 16 g/dL for women.

Hematocrit: Hematocrit is the measure of the percentage of red blood cells circulating in the bloodstream. It’s another indicator of how much oxygen the blood can transport, and optimal levels also indicate that your body is getting the oxygen it needs. Men will generally have higher levels of hematocrit in comparison to women.

Normal results range between 36% and 52%.

Ferritin: Ferritin is a protein that stores iron, providing an accurate metric of the body’s overall iron status. Low levels of ferritin will reduce the body’s capacity to deliver oxygen to cells and tissues and are indicative that you’re not getting enough iron in the diet to meet your body’s needs and demands.

Normal ferritin levels for men are between 12 and 300 ng/mL; and for women, they are between 12 and 150 ng/mL.

Blood cholesterol test (lipid panel)

A lipid panel is a blood test that looks for abnormalities in lipids or fats, including cholesterol and triglycerides. Together, these markers are tested to assess one’s heart health and the potential risk for cardiovascular diseases. There are a few different markers included in a lipid panel, and they are:

Total cholesterol: Your total cholesterol measurement is a calculation that accounts for many different types of lipoproteins– or carriers of cholesterol– plus triglycerides. Healthy levels of cholesterol are important for maintaining heart health.

Normal cholesterol levels range from 125 - 200 mg/dL.

Low-density lipoproteins (LDL): LDL cholesterol is commonly referred to as “bad cholesterol.” If LDL levels are high for extended periods, plaque can form in blood vessels—restricting blood flow. If there is a significant amount of inflammation present, it will worsen this restriction of blood flow. Higher LDL cholesterol levels result in a greater risk of poor heart health.

Normal LDL levels should be below 110 mg/dL.

High-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL): HDL cholesterol is more commonly referred to as “good cholesterol”. HDL helps to remove excess cholesterol from the bloodstream and take it back to the liver to be broken down and then eliminated. Optimal levels of HDL cholesterol promote good heart health.

The normal range from HDL is between 45 and 200 mg/dL.

Triglycerides: This is a type of fat found in the blood. Elevated levels of triglycerides in the blood are associated with a higher risk of poor heart health.

Normal triglyceride levels are below 150 mg/dL.

Apolipoprotein B (ApoB): While not technically included in a standard lipid panel, ApoB is an essential marker for heart health. Therefore it is included in the InsideTracker Ultimate plan. ApoB is the main structural protein found in all potentially atherogenic lipoproteins (including LDL particles), and it assists in transporting and clearing cholesterol from the blood. Elevated ApoB levels are considered a risk factor for cardiovascular disease.

The normal range from apoB is between 0 and 119 mg/dL.



» Learn more about what all of the markers in a lipid blood test mean for you

Hormone blood tests

Blood tests measuring different hormone levels can provide deeper insights into your health. Hormones act as messengers throughout the body and are essential for maintaining numerous bodily processes, including metabolism, sleep and wake cycle, mood, and growth and development.

Testosterone: Testosterone is a steroid hormone found in both men and women. Optimized testosterone levels are essential to overall health, sexual function, bone health, and athletic performance. For men, normal testosterone levels are between 250 and 1,100 ng/dL.

The normal range for testosterone levels in women is much lower, between 2 and 45 ng/dL.

DHEAS: DHEAS is a hormone produced in the adrenal glands. This is produced in both males and females, but based on the current research available, InsideTracker only tests this marker in females. DHEAS is used to make different sex hormones, including both estrogen and testosterone. Unlike estrogen, DHEAS will not fluctuate based on where a female is in their menstrual cycle. DHEAS levels will naturally decline with age, but simple changes to exercise and nutrition routines can aid in optimizing DHEAS levels. Healthy DHEAS levels in women are associated with a healthy immune system, increased energy, better bone and muscle health, and good sexual function.

The normal range for DHEAS in women is highly variable based on age but typically falls between 10 and 300 µg/dL.

Sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG): Sex hormone-binding globulin, SHBG. is a protein produced primarily in the liver that transports sex hormones throughout the body. SHBG regulates the number of free hormones available for use in tissues. Unoptimized SHBG levels can throw off the number of active sex hormones you have—negatively influencing your sex drive, overall energy, and memory.

  • In males, excessively high SHBG is problematic because it will decrease the amount of free testosterone. High levels of SHBG in males are associated with infertility, a decreased sex drive, and erectile dysfunction, especially when total testosterone levels are already low. The normal range for SHBG in men depends on age but is typically between 10 and 77 nmol/L.
  • High levels of SHBG in females can also result in testosterone being less available and altering energy metabolism, sex drive, bone health, and muscle development. Normal SHBG levels in females can range from 14 to 124 nmol/L but are also age-dependent.
  • Low levels of SHBG in women are more likely to have higher levels of testosterone, which can lead to androgenization or the development of masculine characteristics. Women with low SHBG are also at higher risk for developing cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and metabolic syndrome. [1] High levels of SHBG in females can result in testosterone being less available.

Cortisol: Cortisol is a steroid hormone that is released into the bloodstream in response to stress. It helps regulate energy, metabolism, and immune function. Having optimized amounts of cortisol levels is critical in overall health, as too much or too little of this hormone can have negative consequences. Chronically high cortisol levels are associated with poor sleep quality, impaired blood sugar control, increased anxiety, depressed moods, digestive problems, and loss of muscle mass.

The normal range for cortisol levels is 4-22 ug/dL.

Estradiol: This is the most potent form of the hormone estrogen and the most prevalent for premenopausal women. Estradiol levels fluctuate naturally with the menstrual cycle (although birth control use does alter estradiol levels). Optimal estradiol levels during premenopausal are associated with a healthy menstrual cycle, and optimal levels during postmenopause are associated with a reduced risk of low bone mineral density and poor heart health. [2]

The normal range for estradiol differs based on menopausal status and use of hormonal contraceptives and ranges from 19 to 214 pg/mL.

Progesterone: Progesterone is a steroid hormone that is vital in regulating the menstrual cycle. The adrenal cortex and the ovaries produce it. Like estradiol, progesterone levels readily rise and fall throughout the menstrual cycle, declining greatly after menopause.

The normal range for progesterone also varies depending on the phase of your cycle, though normal levels are categorized as 0-21.5 ng/dL.

Progesterone levels that fall outside of the clinical reference range are best addressed with a healthcare practitioner.

Thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH): TSH is the most sensitive marker of thyroid health. It's released from the pituitary gland in the brain and acts on the thyroid gland and its hormones, triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4). Thyroid hormones are closely tied to metabolic processes, body temperature regulation, and nervous system development.

The normal range for TSH in males is 0.5-4.59 μIU/mL, while the normal range for TSH in females is 0.4-4.7 μIU/mL, depending on menopausal status.




Blood test for inflammation

Inflammation is part of the body’s immune response, protecting it from harmful stimuli like pathogens and damaged cells. White blood cells are a measure of inflammation as well as this marker:

High-sensitivity C reactive protein (HsCRP): hsCRP is a protein found in the blood that is a marker of general inflammation throughout the body. It’s no secret that there is a connection between chronically high inflammation levels, measured by the biomarker hsCRP, and age-related conditions such as metabolic syndrome and diabetes.

Optimal levels are between 0.1 mg/L and 0.8 mg/L.

Other micronutrients included in blood tests

Micronutrients are vitamins and minerals essential for the body to function properly but are needed in smaller amounts than macronutrients like carbohydrates, fats, and protein. Micronutrient blood analysis provides objective insights into whether you get enough nutrients to promote optimal functioning. These biomarkers include:

Vitamin D: This fat-soluble vitamin is essential in bone health, immune function, mood, and longevity. Although vitamin D is an important micronutrient and many people across the globe have insufficient levels, it is often not included in a standard blood test. Vitamin D can be obtained from both food and supplements and is produced by the body when the skin is exposed to ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun, initiating the production of vitamin D.

A normal range is 30-100 ng/mL.

Vitamin B12: Vitamin B12 is an essential vitamin—meaning that the body cannot produce it, and it must be obtained through the diet. Vitamin B12 plays a role in the production of red blood cells, converting food into energy and making DNA. Having optimal vitamin B12 levels is essential for developing and maintaining almost every cell in the body. Having optimal levels is also associated with better cognitive function.

A normal range is 190 pg/mL to 950 pg/mL.

Magnesium: As one of the most abundant minerals in the body, magnesium plays an important role in maintaining blood pressure, increasing oxygen capacity, proper muscle function, improving sleep, and healthy immune system function. Having optimal levels of magnesium can help improve energy levels and can be measured in a simple blood test.

A normal range is 1.5 mg/dL to 2.5 mg/dL.

RBC magnesium: This measure of magnesium looks at the levels in your red blood cells and gives a more accurate picture of magnesium stores in the body. When magnesium levels in the blood decrease, the body will pull magnesium from its stores in the bones, tissues, and organs to maintain homeostasis or balance. This more sensitive level of magnesium is not done on common blood tests but can give a more in-depth look at whether more magnesium is needed from the diet.

A normal range is 4 mg/dL to 6.4 mg/dL.

Note: Normal lab value ranges for all tests may vary slightly among different laboratories, and by patient age and sex. The values described in this article represent those provided by Medline Plus, a service of the U.S. Libraries of Medicine and the National Institutes for Health, and those used as normal reference ranges within InsideTracker.



Get help interpreting your blood test results

Still, need help understanding your blood test results and the steps you can take to improve unoptimized levels? InsideTracker can tell you whether your results are optimized based on age, sex, ethnicity, activity level, and menopausal status.

To take it one step further, InsideTracker can help you create an Action Plan to improve your biomarkers. With the platform interpreting your results it details potential connections between biomarkers, identifies areas for improvement, and gives you an evidence-based action plan.



Note: The information provided by this article is for informational purposes only and should not be used to diagnose or treat any medical condition. A licensed physician should be consulted to diagnose and treat medical conditions.



References:

[1] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4064771/

[2] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23460719/