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What does a general blood test show?

Written by Emily Kemp

Medically reviewed by Dr Anojan Arulananthan, MBBS, BSC

5 October 2022

What does a general blood test show?
What does a general blood test show?

There’s no gold standard for what a ‘general blood test’ actually means, so working out what they are and what they show isn’t always easy.

To put it simply, a general blood test usually refers to a blood test that’s comprehensive enough to give a good overview of your health. 

And the good news is you can do a general blood test at home.

So, what should an at-home blood test show? And can you get a complete health check from a blood test at home? Let's unpack it.

 

What is tested in a general blood test?

To be honest, this really depends on which test you choose as they can vary so significantly.

Most general health check blood tests measure a range of biomarkers (a specific characteristic that can be measured in your blood) to get a thorough overview of your health. 

Some of the biomarkers tested in the Ivie general health blood test include: 

HbA1c

A raised HbA1c level can be a sign of prediabetes or diabetes

Cholesterol levels

Most general health check blood tests will test the total amount of cholesterol in your body, along with both ‘good’ and ‘bad’ cholesterol. Too much bad cholesterol can clog your arteries and increase your risk of heart problems

Liver & kidney biomarkers

Including urea (a waste product that your kidneys should remove most of) and bilirubin (another waste product from the breakdown of old red blood cells). If you have kidney or liver problems, these biomarkers can build up to unhealthy levels.

Vitamin B12 levels

Essential for keeping your cells healthy and making new red blood cells. Checking for Vitamin B12 is common in blood tests and can help identify a potential deficiency. Lack of B12 can cause anaemia and, if left untreated, problems with your nervous system.

Vitamin D levels 

Vitamin D is another common biomarker in blood tests. Low vitamin D levels can have an impact on your mood, leaving you feeling lower than usual, as well as weak and fatigued.

Iron levels 

An important marker in your general health, iron levels are almost always tested as standard in general blood tests. If your iron levels are low, it can leave you feeling tired, dizzy or irritable. 

Calcium levels

Calcium is a vital mineral and usually well controlled by your body. General health blood tests often test your calcium levels, as too much or too little can have a significant impact on your health and trigger a range of symptoms


How can you do a general blood test at home?

You can do a general health blood test at home by ordering an online test kit. This is usually a finger prick test. 

When your test kit arrives, you take a small blood sample from your fingertip and send it back to the lab, where they’ll process your results.

Here’s a closer look at how you can do the Ivie general health blood test at home:

  1. Order your blood test kit from the Ivie Wellness app or website
  2. Receive your test kit and activate it on the app
  3. Follow the instructions in the kit to take your sample
  4. Post your sample back to us the same day
  5. Check back in-app to see your results and accompanying doctor’s report in 24-48 hours 

We’ll let you know if any of your results are out of the normal range. We’ll also recommend you speak to your GP who can explain your results and help guide you through any next steps.

 

How long do results take for a general blood test?

Usually, you’ll get the results of your blood test in 24–48 hours. Most lab processing only takes a day or two, though there can be exceptions. 

If there are postal strikes, or the weekend falls straight after returning your test, this can delay things a little. 

This is why you should take and post your test on a weekday to make sure you get your results back ASAP.

 

What can show up on a general blood test?

General health blood tests can show whether a biomarker is within, above, or below the accepted ‘normal’ range.

Depending on where your biomarker levels sit, they can be an indicator of certain conditions, deficiencies or diseases. 

A general health blood test can’t diagnose anything in particular though – only a doctor can do that.

Bear this in mind when you first get your results back, as it can be tempting to jump to conclusions. The truth is, a healthcare professional needs to look at your results in the context of your entire health history before they can give you any form of a diagnosis.

So we know a general blood test can’t show a diagnosis of any kind, but it can indicate – or hint – at certain conditions.

So what can it show you? Well, the kind of things that can show up on a general blood test include: 

Low iron levels

Low iron levels could be a sign of iron deficiency anaemia 

High blood sugar levels

Consistently high levels over a few months can indicate diabetes

Low vitamin D levels

Around 30–40% of the UK population are low in vitamin D during the winter (thanks a bunch, British weather)

Low vitamin B12 levels

Low vitamin B12 levels can be due to not getting enough of this vitamin in your diet

Remember, anything that shows up on your blood test results should be taken in the context of your overall health and wellness.

If you’re concerned about your results, or curious about how to get a diagnosis, then making an appointment with your GP is the best next step.

 

How often should I do a general blood test?

Ideally, a general check of your overall health should be done regularly.

If you can’t see your GP for a check-up, then taking an at-home blood test once a year is a good alternative.

It’ll help you understand what's going on inside your body and pinpoint any areas you can focus on to improve your health.

 

The final word

A general blood test can show you various biomarkers that can be a good indicator of your overall health. Doing an at-home blood test can be a convenient way to get a full health check without having to visit your GP, but bear in mind that the results can’t give you a diagnosis – only a doctor can do that.