Tips and Guidelines to Prepare for Your DAL Test

tech drawing blood for blood test

Direct access laboratory (DAL) tests are direct access tests that allow patients a chance to get important information about their bodies without needing blood draw orders from their primary care providers.

At River’s Edge Hospital & Clinic, we provide patient-authorized DAL tests to anyone who wants to take greater control over their health.

Who Needs a DAL Test?

The River’s Edge Hospital & Clinic’s Direct Access Lab typically provides direct access lab tests for two types of patients:

  1. Patients who want a more hands-on approach to managing their health. Primary care providers typically only order tests when they’re looking for specific lab results, including hormone levels, blood markers and other information found in patients’ bloodstreams. DAL tests allow patients to take their health into their own hands by getting more frequent and comprehensive data and information about their bodies and overall health.
  2. Patients who have high deductible health plans or no health insurance at all. DAL tests are an affordable and convenient alternative to blood draws performed at primary care providers’ offices. Patients only have to pay for the lab services they need.

Note that all patients under 18 years old must be accompanied by a parent or guardian.

What Results Do DAL Tests Produce?

Depending on what our patients ask for, our DAL tests can include the following information:

  • Alanine transaminase (ALT)
  • Aspartate transferase (AST)
  • Basic metabolic panel
  • Blood type
  • Complete blood count (CBC) with automated differential (includes hemoglobin)
  • Comprehensive metabolic panel
  • Glucose
  • Hemoglobin
  • Hemoglobin A1C
  • Lipid panel (including total cholesterol, HDL, triglycerides, LDL, VLDL and cholesterol/HDL ratio)
  • Pregnancy test
  • Prostate-specific antigen (PSA)
  • Thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH)
  • Vitamin D

At River’s Edge Hospital & Clinic, we only charge for the laboratory tests our patients ask to receive. It’s important to share your results with your primary care provider if he or she asked for you to get lab testing or if anything in your lab tests requires further investigation and testing.

What Should You Do Before a Blood Test?

According to the National Library of Medicine, most people only need to take a few steps before a blood draw:

  • Follow all instructions from your primary care provider or the healthcare provider administering the lab test.
  • Tell your primary care provider or the healthcare provider administering the test about any medications, vitamins, or supplements you take, or if you weren’t able to follow the instructions before your lab test.

Certain lab tests, including lipid panels, also require fasting, which means not eating or drinking anything except water for several hours before the test is performed.

What Should You Not Do Before a Blood Test?

The National Library of Medicine also has recommendations for things to avoid before a blood test, including:

  • Chewing gum or drinking juice, coffee or soda if your blood test requires fasting
  • Overeating the day before or eating the day of blood tests that require fasting
  • Smoking
  • Strenuous exercise immediately before your blood test
  • Taking certain medications and supplements (never stop taking a medication without talking to your primary care provider first)

How Much Should Water Should You Drink Before a Blood Test?

It’s important to be well hydrated before a blood test. Some blood tests call for patients to drink extra water before tests are performed to help patients retain more fluid in their veins. This can make it easier for healthcare providers to draw the amount of blood needed to perform lab tests.

Tips for Overcoming a Needle or Blood Draw Phobia

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), around 1 in 4 adults has a strong fear of needles. For those people, this fear can make it more difficult and uncomfortable to get injections, vaccines and blood tests, including those available in a direct access lab.

If you have a fear of needles and/or blood draws, Harvard Medical School says taking some or all of the following steps can help you cope with your fear and eventually conquer it:

  • Be upfront and honest with your healthcare provider about your fear and struggles with needles and blood draws. They may be able to accommodate you by allowing you to lie down or sit somewhere more comfortable and relaxing.
  • Bring your spouse or a trusted family member or friend to your appointment to help calm your nerves and fear.
  • Distract yourself by listening to music, watching videos on your phone or tablet, reading a book, or performing deep-breathing exercises.
  • Don’t watch when the needle is inserted into your arm or when the blood draw is being performed.

How Can I Improve My Blood Test Results?

Improving your blood test results often requires significant lifestyle changes, medication, and both treatment and monitoring by your primary care provider. However, there are a few steps you can take to make noticeable changes in your blood tests in a relatively short timeframe.

The American Academy of Family Physicians says exercising regularly, losing even a relatively small amount of weight, quitting smoking, eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, eating more “good” fats and fewer “bad” fats, and eating more fiber can all make a difference in your lipid panel.

If your blood test shows you have high blood sugar, but you haven’t been diagnosed with diabetes, it can be a sign that you have prediabetes. Thankfully, prediabetes can be managed and reversed before it turns into diabetes.

The CDC says people with prediabetes can lower their risk of developing diabetes by losing even a modest amount of weight (10–14 pounds for a 200-pound person) and by getting at least 30 minutes of regular physical activity five days per week.

Lab testing is one of the most accurate and comprehensive methods for learning about your health and your body. If you want to take charge of your health, River’s Edge Hospital & Clinic can help with our on-site lab testing. There’s no referral necessary. Learn more about our DAL services.

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