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Laboratory Reference Ranges: Understanding Lab Test Results

When doctors interpret laboratory results, they usually categorize them as normal or abnormal based on established reference ranges. However, the normal range is determined by where 95% of the population falls, which does not necessarily equate to optimal health.

A discrepancy arises when we consider that health and disease exist along a continuum, rather than normal or abnormal. To make the most of your laboratory test results, it’s essential to understand these nuances and begin to understand what optimal levels are when evaluating test results.

What Is a Lab Test Result Reference Range?

A reference range is a range of values that serves as a guide to clinicians when interpreting laboratory tests. These ranges are established by testing a large sample of the population and determining where 95% of the sample falls. The reference ranges may vary depending on factors like age, sex, and ethnicity.

What Does a Normal Lab Test Result Mean?

The term normal refers to the range of values that 95% of the population falls into. However, this does not always correspond to optimal health. For example, the normal range for vitamin D levels is 20-100, but the optimal range is towards the upper end of this reference range- close to 80. This discrepancy occurs because a significant proportion of the population is deficient in vitamin D so levels lower than 80 are considered “normal”.

It is essential to keep in mind that if you desire optimal health, blood levels must fall within the optimal range, not just within the reference range.

Why Do Lab Test Result Reference Ranges Matter?

Laboratory reference ranges are crucial in interpreting lab results in health and disease. If optimal health is desired, it is essential to understand that they are not always synonymous with optimal function of the body. Understanding the nuances of reference ranges is crucial because it facilitates decision-making in the management of health and diseases.

In other words, information from laboratory tests combined with other data such as personal and family medical history, symptoms, and lifestyle habits play a significant role in making informed health decisions.

Functional Medicine & Lab Tests

The goal of functional medicine is to move away from the traditional approach of sick care and focus on achieving optimal health. This approach involves looking for subtle deviations from optimal health and addressing them before they escalate into full-blown diseases. It requires understanding the nuances of lab result reference ranges in achieving this goal.

Functional medicine practitioners use a patient-centered approach that focuses on identifying the root cause of the symptoms rather than just treating the symptoms. They use laboratory testing that evaluates the function of all aspects of your biochemistry making sure that the lab results from this testing always falls within optimal ranges. Through this approach disease is not only resolved but is also proactively prevented from recurring.

Functional Medicine Doctor | Lab Test Results: (512) 343-9355