blood vials on a table in a lab

Your 101 Guide To Improve Blood Test Results

Improving blood test results involves taking a comprehensive approach that involves recognizing their vital significance and interpretations, implementing dietary strategies through a well-balanced eating plan, incorporating superfoods and suitable supplements, integrating lifestyle adjustments like consistent physical activity and stress control, and addressing prevalent blood conditions like anemia and high cholesterol. It is very important to take into account specific factors related to gender and age, as well as make use of genetics and the latest scientific findings. Providing practical guidance on how to prepare for and understand blood tests gives individuals more control over improving their blood health and general well-being.

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Your doctor may have ordered a blood test for you as part of a regular health routine or in anticipation of a surgery or other health procedure. But what exactly are doctors looking for when they order a blood test?

A blood test involves using a syringe needle to collect a sample of blood, which is then sent to a lab and tested. Some tests, referred to as panel tests, measure a wide range of blood contents. The most common of these is the complete blood count (CBC), which measures the volume of red and white blood cells, hemoglobin, and platelets in the blood.

blood vials on a table in a lab

Other blood tests are designed to detect something specific, such as a hormone, marker, enzyme, or protein that may indicate you have a particular condition.

Understanding the Importance of Blood Tests

While blood tests alone are not sufficient to determine whether or not you have a medical condition, they are a powerful diagnostic tool for doctors as they evaluate your health.

There are a number of reasons a doctor might order a blood test:

  • As part of your regular preventative health routine to evaluate your overall health
  • In anticipation of a surgery or treatment to make sure the treatment plan is appropriate and safe
    A screening test for any conditions you may be at risk of developing, i.e. if you have a family history of cancer or heart disease
  • To determine the cause of symptoms you may be experiencing
  • Your doctor may order regular testing throughout a treatment for specific medical conditions to monitor whether or not the regimen is working effectively

Blood tests empower doctors in a number of ways. First, they can highlight potential health risks before any external symptoms become noticeable, allowing your doctor to help you make the changes necessary to avoid developing a health condition. For health conditions that may have already developed, blood tests can help narrow down potential causes of symptoms, allowing doctors to address the root cause of the issue and hopefully prevent further complications from developing. Finally, tests allow doctors to monitor your health beyond noticeable symptoms, allowing them to tailor treatment to your health needs.

Basics of Blood Test Results and Their Meaning

It’s important to note that you should never try to interpret your blood test results without the guidance of a licensed and trained healthcare professional, as factors like age, health conditions, medications, and more can influence results. Because blood tests are designed to detect and measure blood content differently, there are a few ways to consider the results.

Blood test results can be formatted differently depending on the lab providing them, but are required by law to include mandatory information such as the name of the physician who ordered the test, the name of the healthcare professionals who did the test, and the date the test was completed.

There are a few different ways results may be indicated on the report:

  • Positive/Negative: This type of test result is usually associated with a particular condition. An example of this would be a blood test to determine whether or not a person is pregnant.
  • Quantitative Result: These test results show the measured quantity of what the test was designed to detect.
  • Reference Range: Each lab generally has its own range for each item being measured in a test. These are usually indicated next to your quantitative result so that you can see where your measurement falls within the range.

To get an idea of what a doctor may infer from a blood test, here is a breakdown of a CBC panel and what the results may indicate.

  • Hematocrit levels: Hematocrit refers to the volume of red blood cells in your blood. A high hematocrit result can indicate dehydration, while low hematocrit may indicate anemia.
  • Hemoglobin levels: Hemoglobin, an iron-rich protein found in blood cells, helps carry oxygen throughout the body. Low hemoglobin is associated with anemia, thalassemia, and sickle cell disease.
  • Mean Corpuscular Volume (MCV): MCV is the measurement of your average red blood cell size. Low MCV can indicate anemia or thalassemia.
  • Platelet Levels: Platelets are composed of blood cell fragments that aid clotting by sticking together at the site of breaks in blood vessels to stop bleeding. Platelet results outside of the normal range may indicate a bleeding or clotting disorder.
  • Red Blood Cell Count: Red blood cells carry oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body. Red blood cell volume outside a normal range may indicate bleeding, anemia, or dehydration.
  • White Blood Cell Count: White blood cells play an essential role in the immune system to fight illness and disease. White blood cell levels outside a normal range can signal infection, an immune disorder, or cancer.

It’s important to note that results being on the higher or lower end of the normal range may be due to other health factors and isn’t necessarily a sign that something is wrong. Your doctor may order the test to be done again to confirm the results and make sure they aren’t the result of bad blood work, an issue resulting from improper testing or handling. If your doctor feels your test results may indicate a health issue, the next steps to address the problem might include ordering more tests, prescribing medication, and/or suggesting lifestyle changes.

Nutritional Strategies to Improve Blood Test Results

The body needs certain vitamins, minerals, and more to survive. Most of these are obtained from what we consume, specifically from the food we eat. If vitamin deficiency or vitamin overload is the cause of bad blood test results that concern your healthcare provider, changing your eating habits and/or supplementing nutrients may be a vital part of your care plan.

Essential nutrients cannot be made by the body and must be consumed for the body to function effectively. These nutrients are broken into two categories:

  • Macronutrients are needed by the body in substantial amounts. They include water, protein, carbohydrates, and fats.
  • Micronutrients are needed by the body in much smaller amounts. These include vitamins and minerals.

Vitamins are necessary for a wide range of bodily functions, such as guarding against illness and cancers, supporting metabolism, and maintaining healthy skin, teeth, and bones. Minerals help balance water levels, promote blood clotting, and help carry oxygen throughout the body, among other benefits. Proteins are building blocks of the body, helping the growth and healing of muscles, bones, and other tissues. Healthy fats are vital for brain function, cell growth, and aid the absorption of other nutrients. Carbohydrates supply the body with energy, supporting the function of the brain, digestive system, and immune defense.

Regardless of how much or little of these nutrients the body needs, not getting enough (or getting too much) essential nutrients can lead to significant health issues if not treated properly. Your diet may be affecting your health more than you think; adjusting what you eat may be how to quickly improve blood test results.

Most people who eat a balanced diet can get enough nutrients for healthy body function. If you are looking for ways to eat a more nutritious diet and improve the results of your bloodwork, consider incorporating the following foods into your meal plans:


  • B vitamins
  • Protein
  • Selenium
  • Potassium
  • Healthy fats

Dark leafy greens

  • Vitamin C
  • Fiber
  • Zinc
  • Calcium
  • Iron


  • Fiber
  • Antioxidants
  • Potassium
  • Vitamin A


  • Numerous vitamins
  • Fiber
  • Antioxidants
  • Minerals

Olive oil

  • Healthy fats
  • Vitamin K
  • Vitamin E

Sweet potato

  • Fiber
  • Vitamin A
  • Potassium
  • Vitamin C

Legumes (beans, peas, peanuts, and lentils)

  • Protein
  • B vitamins
  • Fiber

If you are having difficulty getting enough essential nutrients through diet alone, your doctor may recommend you try dietary supplements. This means you are specifically adding certain vitamins to what you consume.

Supplements can come in a variety of forms, such as:

  • Oral tablets, capsules, gel caps
  • Powders, teas, energy drinks, or drink mixes
  • Candies, gummies, or nutrition bars
  • Injections or intravenous therapy (Prescription required)

There are a number of reasons you might need to supplement certain nutrients, with vitamin deficiency being among the most common. Certain medical conditions can also cause your body to need more nutrients, such as during pregnancy or while nursing. Aging and other medical conditions can cause your body to have difficulty absorbing nutrients, which makes people prone to nutritional deficiencies. Individuals with specialized or restricted diets may be prone to deficiencies as well. Your doctor may also advise you to take dietary supplements to help lower the risk of developing a health issue or to correct a mild deficiency.

While getting enough nutrients into your body is important for improved blood test results, it is possible to have too much of a good thing. Vitamin toxicity, also called vitamin overload, can cause significant health issues like headaches, digestive issues, rash, and affect cognitive function. Most cases of vitamin toxicity result from taking too many supplements or taking supplements with medications that should not be taken together.

It’s important to consult a doctor before beginning a new supplement routine, especially if you have gotten bad blood test results. Your health history and other medications you may be taking are important factors to consider before taking supplements. Some medications may not work as effectively when taken with certain vitamins, so it’s important to get guidance from your doctor when taking dietary supplements.

Lifestyle Modifications

Lifestyle modifications are some of the most important changes you can make to improve your blood test results. When doctors make recommendations on how to improve your blood test results, they are often looking ahead at your ongoing health rather than treating your blood test as an isolated incident. This is why small, sustainable changes ultimately have a greater positive impact over the long run.

If you do not engage in regular physical activity, it is highly likely that your doctor will recommend exercise when you ask how to improve your blood work results. Being active offers significant benefits for wellness overall.

Regular exercise can:

  • Help control blood sugar and reduce risk of type 2 diabetes
  • Reduce risk of cancer, including breast cancer, colon cancer, and kidney cancer
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Improve cholesterol
  • Lower risk of developing cardiovascular disease

Managing stress may not be the first step that comes to mind when considering how to improve blood work; however, it is a critical one. Chronic stress has profound negative impacts on physical health, causing stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline to flood the body and constantly put your body in a state of fight or flight. This puts extreme pressure on a number of body systems, including the immune system, respiratory system, digestive system, and cardiovascular system. Common physical symptoms include fatigue, frequent illness, upset stomach, headache, and issues sleeping.

Changing your lifestyle to address chronic stress can help address the health factors reflected in your blood test results.

You may want to consider strategies such as:

  • Learn to recognize signs that you are stressed
  • Identify stress triggers
  • Take steps to get on a sleep schedule and practice good sleep hygiene
  • Reach out to loved ones for support
  • Prioritize activities that promote overall wellness, like exercise, hobbies, or spending time with loved ones.
  • Reach out to your healthcare provider for guidance and support

Common Blood Conditions

Two of the most common blood conditions identified by blood tests are anemia and high cholesterol. In this section, we review what these conditions are and how you can address them.

Approximately one-fourth of the world’s population is affected by anemia. A diagnosis of anemia means your body doesn’t have enough red blood cells, which are responsible for carrying oxygen to other organs.

This lack of circulated oxygen can lead to symptoms such as:

  • Chest pain and shortness of breath
  • Dizziness and pulsatile tinnitus (pounding or whooshing sounds in ears)
  • Irregular or rapid heartbeat and headache

There are many causes of anemia, such as genetic causes, injury or illness, and nutritional deficiency.

The two types of anemia related to nutritional deficiency most frequently seen include:

  • Iron-Deficiency Anemia: This is the most prevalent type of anemia, accounting for roughly 50% of anemia cases. It can be caused by blood loss, not consuming enough iron, or health conditions that negatively affect iron absorption. If not addressed, iron-deficiency anemia can cause severe health issues.
  • Pernicious anemia: This type of anemia occurs due to low levels of vitamin b12, also known as folate. Typically, it is the result of not getting enough vitamin B12 in your diet. It can also result from a lack of intrinsic factor, a protein in the stomach that aids vitamin B12 absorption. Additional symptoms of this type of anemia include soreness of mouth and tongue, numbness and tingling in limbs, and cognitive effects like confusion, memory issues, and depression.

Treating these types of anemia often includes switching to a more nutritious diet and treating any underlying causes of deficiency. Your doctor may also recommend supplements to supply your body with the nutrients it needs. Supplements may be taken orally, given as a shot, or administered via IV therapy.

If your blood work readings showed that you have high cholesterol, also known as hyperlipidemia or hypercholesterol, this means that there are too many lipids, or fats, in your blood. While lipids are necessary for healthy body function, having more than your body can use will result in buildup in your arteries as they combine with other blood components to form fatty deposits known as plaque. Over time, this can become dangerous, causing cardiovascular disease.

Blood testing is incredibly important to detect high cholesterol, as there typically aren’t obvious signs until damage has already been done. Hypercholesterol often leads to hypertension, or high blood pressure, which can cause symptoms such as fatigue, impaired vision, headaches, trouble breathing, chest pains, and irregular heartbeat. In extremely severe cases, high cholesterol can cause xanthoma, a skin condition resulting in waxy deposits under the skin. These deposits are typically found around the joints, eyes, and hands.

If you are wondering how to improve blood test results after a diagnosis of high cholesterol, it will inevitably involve lifestyle changes that may include exercise, quitting smoking, and changing to a healthier diet. Depending on how high your cholesterol levels are, your doctor may also prescribe medications or refer you to a specialist.

Some examples of dietary changes to lower cholesterol include:

  • Consuming less foods high in saturated fats, cholesterol, and trans fats. Examples include red meats, high-fat dairy products, and egg yolks
  • Incorporating more fiber into your diet, like vegetables, whole grains, and fruits
  • Avoiding fried foods, as well as highly processed foods like fast foods or prepackaged foods made with palm oil or cocoa butter
  • Eating lean proteins like legumes, chicken, and fish

Medications to treat cholesterol can work to lower cholesterol production in different ways.

  • Statins like Lipitor work by blocking the production of cholesterol in the liver.
  • Zetia is an example of a cholesterol absorption inhibitor
  • Vytorin contains a combination of active ingredients that both block cholesterol production and limit cholesterol absorption in the intestine.

Special Considerations

As mentioned previously, there are a number of factors that can affect what ideal blood test levels should be. While you should follow your doctor’s advice for guidance that is customized to you, there are reference ranges of normal levels. These can help you understand how your blood work readings compare to the average.

Statistics on health conditions vary according to gender, meaning that doctors often consider gender when evaluating your health.

Women are especially at risk of cardiovascular disease. Compared to men, they are at higher risk of stroke and are more likely to die after a heart attack. They are also more likely to develop urinary tract issues and osteoarthritis. It should also be noted that excess, chronic alcohol consumption has a greater impact on women, putting them at higher risk of heart disease and breast cancer.

Men over 50 have a higher risk of developing skin cancer, prostate cancer, and colorectal cancer. They are also at risk of cardiovascular diseases, which are especially heightened by unhealthy lifestyle choices that are more common in men.

People receiving gender-affirming hormone therapy are at a higher risk of breast cancer and developing bone density issues regardless of which hormones they are taking. Those receiving feminizing hormone therapy are at risk of prostate cancer and should receive age-appropriate screenings recommended for men. Those receiving masculinizing hormone therapy are at higher risk of cervical dysplasia resulting from the thinning of cervical tissues. They should also receive age-appropriate screenings for cervical cancer recommended for women.

Reference ranges are often broken down by gender. Note that in this section, we are discussing gender assigned at birth. People who receive hormone therapy may have numerous factors contributing to what their reference range should be. It’s important to remember that these ranges are general guidelines and that your doctor may determine a custom reference range based on different criteria. “Normal” can range on a case-by-case basis for a number of reasons, such as health conditions or medications. Some examples of reference ranges that differ by gender for the most common blood tests include:

  • Hemoglobin
    • Women:12.3 -15.3 grams per deciliter
    • Men:14-17.5 grams per deciliter
  • Hematocrit
    • Women: 35.9%-44.6%
    • Men: 41.5% – 50.4%
  • Red blood cells
    • Women: 4.1 million – 5.1 million cells/mcl
    • Men: 4.5 million – 5.9 million cells/mcl
  • HDL Cholesterol
    • Women 20 and older: More than 50 mg/dl
    • Men 20 and older: More than 40 mg/dl

Regardless of gender, experts agree that keeping up with routine preventative care and making healthy lifestyle choices are essential to longevity and quality of life.

As with gender, age also impacts the types of health conditions doctors look out for when reviewing blood test results.

Children generally need less frequent blood tests unless the doctor is addressing a specific health concern. Your child may need to be tested for lead as early as nine months old. Cholesterol screenings often occur between ages 9 and 11, as well as at age 17.

Adults’ recommendations for blood screenings vary by age as well.

Some examples of testing ranges include:

  • Cholesterol screenings should begin at age 20 and repeat every five years. After age 40, people with a higher risk of heart disease should be screened more frequently.
  • Type 2 diabetes screenings should repeat every three years for adults with a BMI of 25 or higher beginning at age 35. All adults are recommended to get tested beginning at age 45.
  • Cancer screening blood tests vary depending on the type. Colorectal cancer screens should begin at 45, with frequency varying depending on the type and results of your test. Prostate cancer blood tests should begin at age 40 for men and those Assigned Male At Birth (AMAB) who are at higher risk. All men and AMAB people should get prostate cancer screenings beginning at age 50.
  • Seniors need more frequent blood tests for varying reasons. Often, monitoring side effects of medications or treatments for other health concerns can be reflected in blood test results, allowing doctors to make adjustments before more serious issues can develop.

Reference ranges mostly vary in the first 19 years of life, then typically remain within the same range throughout adulthood. Some examples of reference ranges that vary depending on age include:

  • Cholesterol – Triglycerides
    • Children age 0 – 9: 75 mg/dl or less
    • Children aged 10 – 19: 90 mg/dl or less
    • Adults aged 20 or older: 149 mg/dl or less; the ideal is less than 100 mg/dl
  • White Blood Cell Count
    • Babies 0 – 2 weeks: 9,000 – 30,000 cells per cubic millimeter of blood (cells/mm3)
    • Babies 2 – 8 weeks: 5,000 – 21,000 cells/mm3
    • Children 2 months: 6 years: 5,000 – 19,000 cells/mm3
    • Children 6 – 18 years: 4,800 – 10,800 cells/mm3
    • Adults 19 or older: 4,500 – 11,000 cells/mm3

Advanced Insights

It’s no secret that your health is influenced by your genes. Knowing your family health history can help you and your doctor determine strategies to combat and manage the health issues you may have inherited. Examples of information to gather include major medical conditions or events, causes of death, and causes of death.

There are countless health conditions that can run in a family, which can be caused by both genetic and shared environmental factors. Your doctor is likely to look for signs of any conditions from your family health history in your blood test results.

Type 2 diabetes is one example of a hereditary condition in which blood test results can be critical. Regular testing can reveal when people who are genetically predisposed to diabetes have developed prediabetes, a condition involving higher than normal blood sugar levels that may develop into Type 2 diabetes if left untreated. If prediabetes is diagnosed, your doctor can work with you to make a plan to bring blood sugar levels down and avoid type 2 diabetes. This plan may include lifestyle modifications and, if necessary, medication.

Heart disease is another condition in which genetics play a factor. Cholesterol and blood sugar levels both play a role in the development of heart disease. Knowing you are at higher risk of developing heart disease can help your doctor monitor your blood test results more closely and develop a plan if your results indicate heart disease could potentially develop. As with diabetes, your doctor can work with you to make a plan to reduce the risk of developing heart disease, including medications and lifestyle changes.

Researchers are constantly working to determine how to detect health conditions earlier to increase the chances of avoiding more serious health complications. People unable to access family health history may want to consider genetic blood tests, which can help determine what conditions you are predisposed to developing. People usually hear about these tests in the context of determining what conditions may be passed onto children, but these tests can offer insight into your own health concerns as well.

People have realized the importance of preventative care, with blood test innovations exploding in recent years. Efforts are being made to develop home blood tests to help people learn about their individual metabolic rates and responses, allowing them to make more nuanced choices in their healthy lifestyle approaches. Part of the effort in developing tests is reducing the amount of blood needed for testing and increasing the testing panel, allowing people to get a full health report with just one drop of blood.

Testing is also evolving to include conditions that could not previously be detected. Researchers at Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center utilized AI to develop the DNA evaluation of fragments for early interception (DELFI) test, which has successfully detected both lung and liver cancer.

Practical Tips

Although blood tests are routine, preparing for them properly can make a big difference in the outcome of your results. The type of preparation you will need to do may vary depending on what is being tested. Here, we outline the general tips on how to prepare for your blood test. If you want to know how to improve your bloodwork, check in with your doctor before the test to ensure you don’t do anything that could affect the results.

Preparing for Blood Tests - Before the Test

Getting ready for a blood test generally starts the day before your test. Fasting, meaning you don’t consume any food or drink except water, is a common requirement for a number of diagnostics. The timeframe of fasting is generally 8 – 12 hours before the test. People often try to schedule these tests in the morning so that they can sleep their way through most of the fast. Some blood tests may also require that you not consume alcohol for a certain period of time before the test. It should be noted that during a fast, you should also avoid chewing gum, exercising, and smoking.

On the day of the test, make sure you are hydrated, as more fluid in your veins will make the process easier. However, caffeinated drinks such as coffee, tea, and energy drinks should be avoided. If you are worried you might get nauseous, don’t eat right before your appointment – even if you aren’t required to fast. Those without a fasting requirement should eat 1-2 hours prior to the test to avoid lightheadedness.

There are several other factors to consider to be prepared for your blood test.

  • Make sure to wear short sleeves so that the nurse can access your arm.
  • You should also make sure to have your identification and insurance card with you.
  • You may need to fill out some paperwork before the blood draw is performed, so be sure to arrive early to complete any paperwork so your blood draw can be performed on time.
  • Finally, you may want to bring a snack with you to eat after your appointment, especially if your test requires you to fast.

Preparing for Blood Tests - During the Test

Blood draws are generally quick, straightforward procedures that are finished in minutes. They typically take place in labs, in rooms designed for the procedure.

Here’s what to expect during the procedure:

  • You will be asked to sit in a chair with an armrest with your arm outstretched.
  • The site of the blood draw – often the inner elbow – will be sanitized with a small wipe, and a stretchy band will be tied around your arm.
  • You may also be asked to make a fist to promote blood flow.
  • At this point, the needle will be inserted, and the blood draw will begin.
  • Once the required amount of blood is taken (usually 3 – 5 vials), the needle will be removed from your arm, and a small bandage will be placed over the draw site.

Keep the technician performing the draw advised about how you are feeling. Feelings of dizziness, lightheadedness, or even just nervousness are normal, and the technician can work with you to help you stay comfortable. There may be a numbing medication available to help reduce pain experienced during the blood draw. The technician can also help you breathe to avoid lightheadedness, a common habit among patients having blood drawn. You also can look away as the technician works if it helps you avoid discomfort or nausea.

Interpreting Results

As previously mentioned, each type of lab test has a standard reference range for results that can give you an idea of where yours falls in the spectrum. However, as also discussed, reference ranges are only a small part of evaluating your results. The guidance of a doctor who has evaluated your overall health is absolutely essential to properly understanding what your blood test results mean and how you should move forward. Two people can have the same blood test result but face different implications.

If you are seeking a doctor to help you improve your overall health, a strong doctor-patient relationship is crucial. When searching for healthcare providers, you should consider factors like accessibility. Practices offering telehealth services and other methods of regular communication are a good choice for people looking to make long-term changes and track progress. People with busy schedules or transportation obstacles may want to consider healthcare providers offering house call services to come to their home to perform a blood draw. Choosing options that make addressing your health more convenient and practical can help your goals feel more attainable and less intimidating.

Last Words

Blood tests are a crucial tool in preventative health that can help detect many health conditions early, allowing you to make changes to manage or even avoid health conditions. While there are a number of steps you can take to improve the results of your next blood test, it’s important to keep perspective on your overall health, not just the numbers.

To get the best results in both your blood tests and your health, it’s vital to work with a licensed and trained doctor. A doctor can fully evaluate your health and create a custom plan to help you achieve your health goals. Over time, a doctor can also develop a thorough understanding of your blood test levels, which can help them identify trends that may indicate a health issue. Doctors can also offer referrals to other healthcare professionals who can help you on your health journey, such as nutritionists or mental health experts.

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