New Use for Old Blood Test

The Complete Blood Count or CBC for short is a blood test that measures white blood cells, red blood cells, hemoglobin, and various other aspects related to the blood.  It can be used as an overall health-screening tool and may help with the diagnosis of anemia, leukemia, and various infections.   However, a new study, says the CBC may help predict heart attack risk and life expectancy.

Aspirin used to just be another pain relieving medication, but researchers also discovered that it could help save lives when in the midst of having a heart attack and prevent heart attacks when taken on a regular basis.  Just as Aspirin was one of the simplest pain reliever, the CBC is one of the simplest blood test, but recently researchers presented a study showing that a component of the CBC can be used to provide information on heart attack risk and life expectancy.   That component is the red cell distribution width or RDW for short.

Highest levels of RDW were associated with a significant increased risk of death.  According to Benjamin Horne, PhD, Director of Cardiovascular and Genetic Epidemiology at the Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute, “…it has turned out to be one of the most predicative factors of cardiovascular events and mortality.  Peer reviewers actually though it it was too good to be true because the CBC has been around for 50 years.”

The good news is that the CBC is one of the least expensive of all blood tests used for health screening, and researchers are encouraging all doctors to begin using this new metric as a basis for evaluating which patients have higher risk  and need more follow up testing.  However, if you do not have a primary care physician, you can always order the CBC online by clicking here.