All about CBC (Complete Blood Count)

You are feeling weak, and you go to a doctor. He diagnoses you for a while and tells you to go take a CBC(Complete Blood Count) test. Wondering what a CBC is?

CBC (Complete Blood Count) is a series of tests that are used to determine your blood cells count. What are blood cells? How do they help your body? What happens if the cell count is low? Who should take this test? How is the test done? What does a typical result look like? How to increase blood count through diet? We will be answering all these questions here.

What are blood cells?

Blood cells are types of cells that are mainly found in blood as the term indicates. There are mainly 3 types of blood cells: Red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets.

  • Red blood cells: The primary function of a red blood cell is to carry oxygen from through the circulatory system, meaning from the lungs to the other parts of the body. RBC contains haemoglobin, which is a red-iron rich protein that helps carry oxygen and gives it a red colour, and hence the name red blood cells.
  • White blood cells: White blood cells defends the body from foreign bodies and orgasm and protects us from diseases and illness. WBC can move on their own, using metabolic energy, which helps in protecting the body. 
  • Platelets: Platelets are a type of blood cell that help the body recover from injury and wounds, helps the body stop bleeding by forming blood clots. When a body part is injured and bleeding, the platelets rush to the spot and forms blood clots on the spot.

What happens if any of the blood cell count is low?

We now know that blood cells are divided into 3 categories, and our body faces problems depending on which of the 3 or if all of them are:

  1. “low count”, which means there are less than necessary blood cells of that type, or
  2. “high count”, which means there are more than necessary blood cells of that type.
  • If Red blood cells have a low or high count: There are several symptoms we might have if there is low red blood cell count, such as fatigue, shortness of breath, weakness, light-headedness, or pale skin. This might also be an indication for a much severe disease.

If you have a high blood cell count, you might feel symptoms such as joint pain, tenderness, fatigue, sleep disturbance or itching skin. For an average person, a normal RBC count would be 4.7 million to 5.9* million cells per microlitre(cells/mcL) for men and 4.2 million to 5.1* million cells per microlitre(cells/mcL) for women.

  • If White blood cells have a low or high count: If you have low WBC count, you may get fevers and other infections such as sinus infections, skin infections very often, or your mouth may feel sore, due to your body not defending against these infections effectively.

High WBC count is a very rare condition, and it is difficult to determine general symptoms for it, and it usually requires further investigation from professionals. For an average person, a normal WBC count will be 4500 to 11000* per microlitre.

  • If platelets are low or high: Getting bruised easily, prolonged bleeding from cuts, bleeding from gums or nose, blood in urine or stools. These are some of the many symptoms that may mean you have a low platelet count.

High platelet count is not usually associated with anything dangerous, however, it may cause blood clotting, bleeding, or stroke. A normal platelet count for an average person would be 150000 to 450000* platelets per microlitre.

*Ranges may vary minorly according to the calibration of your healthcare provider.

Always consult your doctor or medical professional before deciding or assuming you have either of these health problems.

Who should take this test?

CBC is a common test that can be taken as part of a routine check-up to detect problems or if someone is feeling ill. CBC can be used to evaluate the overall health of a person, and so can be done on people across all ages, even new-borns.

How is a CBC done?

The blood sample for a CBC is collected from a vein, which then goes through various testing to obtain results. A person can take a CBC anytime, and fasting is not necessary. A minimum of 0.5mL of blood sample is collected, more might be required depending on your healthcare provider.

How does a typical CBC test result look like?

A CBC usually includes various other parameters along with RBC, WBC, and platelet count, such as MCH, MCHC, MCV, PCV and more parameters. A test also includes a normal value range along with your value for the test. All these parameters are inferred by doctors to determine normal or abnormal body conditions.

Complete Blood Count Result

Consult your doctor or medical professional before inferring something from the results on your own.

How to increase blood cell count through diet?

There are various foods rich in vitamins that may increase blood cells and platelet count naturally. Avoiding products like alcohol and artificial sweeteners like aspartame (This is present in coke zero, diet coke, fanta zero, fresca, etc) may also help.

  • Foods rich in vitamin B-12: Vitamin B-12 deficiency can also cause low platelet count. People that are older than 14 need 2.4 mcg of vitamin B-12, and pregnant and breast-feeding women need 2.8mcg of vitamin b-12 every day according to NIH. Some of the foods rich in vitamin B-12 are:
    • Fortified cereals
    • Soy milk or almond milk
    • Eggs
    • Fish
  • Foods rich in vitamin C: Vitamin C helps the body in absorbing iron and plays a major role in the immune system. Vitamin C gets destroyed in heat, so consuming these foods without exposing them to heat is preferred. Many foods contain vitamin C, some are:
    • Brussel sprouts
    • Kiwifruits
    • Citrus fruits
    • Broccoli
    • Red and Green bell peppers
    • Strawberries
  • Foods rich in Iron: Iron also plays a vital role in blood cell count. Males that are over 18 years and females that are over 50 years require 8mg of iron every day, while females aged 19 to 50 need 18 mg. Taking calcium supplements and calcium rich while eating iron rich food is not preferred. Women need 27 mg per day during pregnancy. Some of the foods rich in iron are:
    • Dark chocolate
    • Lentils
    • Tofu
    • White and kidney beans
    • Oysters
  •  Foods rich in vitamin K:  Foods rich in vitamin K may also help in blood cell count. Males over 19 years need 120mcg of vitamin K and females over 19 years need 90 mcg of vitamin K every day. Some of the foods that are rich in vitamin K are:
    • Broccoli
    • Pumpkin
    • Soybean
    • Spinach
    • Kale
  • Foods rich in vitamin D: Vitamin D is essential to the functioning of bones, muscles, nerves and the immune system. Vitamin D is can be produced by the body from exposure to sun,  but in this day and age not many people have the time or need to be exposed in the sun. People over the age of 19 need 15mcg of vitamin D daily. Some of the foods rich in vitamin D are:
    • Fish liver oils
    • Egg yolk
    • Orange juice
    • Soy milk
  • Folate rich foods:  An adult requires at least 400mcg of folate per day while pregnant women require 600mcg, according to NIH (National Health Institute). Be careful not to take too much of folic acid supplements as they could potentially interfere with other vitamin functions (such as B-12). Some of the foods rich in folate are:
    • Spinach
    • Brussel Sprouts
    • Black – eyed peas
    • Rice
    • Yeast

None of these foods are proven to be effective in increase blood cell counts, but there have been cases where these foods have helped in increasing them.

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