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Think you know AARP? What you don't know about us may surprise you. Discover all the 'Real Possibilities'

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Your Lab Results Decoded

Wonder what all those numbers mean? So did we

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These factors can throw off results:

  • Running or any high-intensity exercise can cause slight dehydration and show up as kidney insufficiency.
Blood test: how to decode lab results

Frequent testing increases the likelihood of error. — Photo by Science Photo Library/Getty Images

  • A sunburn can elevate white blood cell count, which typically signals inflammation.

  • Got a sick spouse or child but feel fine yourself? A nonsymptomatic cold virus can raise or lower white blood cell count.

  • An improper blood draw can cause a potassium spike; eating too much licorice can make it drop.

  • A specimen that sits for too long before testing by the lab can skew blood sugar readings.

Also of interest: How to get patients to ask — and doctors to listen.

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