What is a Metabolic Blood Panel and What Will it Tell You?

Metabolic Blood Panel

The older we get, the more important it is to go to the doctor regularly. Like performing routine maintenance on your car, routine checkups, blood tests and other preventative tests will ensure that your body is working the way it’s supposed to. Whether you’re going in with a specific complaint or just want reassurance that you’re still functioning like a well-oiled machine, the closer tabs you keep on your health, the better.

There are many blood tests and panels that a doctor might recommend. One of the most helpful is a metabolic blood panel. A comprehensive metabolic panel (CMP) gives insight into how your metabolism is functioning, whether your medications are affecting your organs and may help catch health issues earlier.

If your doctor hasn’t ordered a CMP yet this year, ask them whether they recommend that you get one. It provides a good opportunity to check in on your body’s internal workings—plus, it’s minimally invasive and virtually painless.

What is a metabolic blood panel?

Procedurally, a CMP is no different than your average diagnostic blood test. The doctor or nurse will take a small sample of blood with a needle. However, your doctor may ask that you refrain from eating or drinking for 12 hours before the test.

Exercise can also affect your CMP results, so you may have to skip the morning run. Ask your doctor whether there are any special instructions before your test.

The blood test should be relatively painless. Some people bruise around needles, but that should fade within a few days. Depending on the location, it may not even feel tender—or you might not notice it unless you’re directly pressing on the bruise.

What will a metabolic blood panel show?

According to Medline, a CMP tests 14 different substances in your blood. It also checks the fluid and electrolyte and acid and base balances. The CMP will check your glucose, calcium, chloride, sodium, potassium, carbon dioxide, bilirubin, total protein, albumin, ALP, ALT, AST, creatine and blood urea nitrogen levels. This provides insight into how your body is using energy, whether there are unusual levels of liver or kidney waste product in your blood, whether you’re getting enough nutrients and if your liver enzyme levels are in order.

When the ratios of these substances are off, that can indicate a serious health problem—including ones that may not present alongside other symptoms. Your doctor will be able to identify potential trouble spots and rule out problems like kidney or liver disease, or diabetes. Hypoglycemia, dehydration and muscle problems can also be detected.

Medications may affect your CMP, especially if you take hormones, insulin or steroids. Sometimes the blood cells are damaged during the collection process, which can affect the results. If your results are outside the “normal” range, your doctor will likely order follow-up tests.

If you’re confused about your test results, refer to the range specified on your lab paperwork. Labs may have different testing processes and normal ranges. Don’t Google normal ranges—information online may look very different than how your lab tests and records results.

Is it the same thing as a basic metabolic panel?

A basic metabolic panel (BMP) has eight of the same tests as a CMP—but it doesn’t check the liver and protein levels in your blood. If you’re a relatively healthy individual, your doctor might opt for a BMP over a CMP.

If, however, you have a family history of diabetes, kidney or liver disease, you might want to specifically request a CMP instead of a BMP. Most doctors will be happy to ensure the additional tests are performed, especially if there’s a chance it could prevent or quickly catch hereditary diseases.

How often do I need a CMP?

Get a CMP as part of your annual check-up and physical, just to make sure that your body is functioning properly. If your family has a history of kidney and liver disease or diabetes, you might want to request a CMP any time you think you’re developing symptoms. This will help rule out the most likely causes. Knowledge is power—and catching diseases and disorders early gives you a great advantage.

If you’re getting ready to schedule your annual checkup, make sure to ask your doctor for a CMP. With any luck, your results will be perfectly normal, and you can enjoy peace of mind for another year.

Evan DeMarco

Evan DeMarco is a leading sports medicine and nutrition expert, published author, public speaker and frequent guest on television, radio, and digital platforms.

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