Inside a man's silhouette, a gloved hand holds a vial of blood sample.

Navigating Disappointing Test Results

With chronic conditions comes regular testing. As someone with genetically high cholesterol, also known as familial hypercholesterolemia (FH), I am no stranger to regular blood tests. I usually test my levels every 3 to 6 months, and throughout the 12 years of my diagnosis, I’ve received more disappointing results than celebratory ones. "Negative" test results can ruin my day, and the reason behind that is both simple and complex.

The consequences of unwanted test results

Simply, I was expecting and hoping for more "positive" results — I wanted my LDL to be lower, I wanted my HDL to be higher, I wanted confirmation that my medicine is working. It also creates more hurdles to navigate on top of my already-busy life.

Now, I’ll have to schedule a followup. Now, I’ll have to try new medicine. Now, I’ll have to take off work for these appointments. These consequences of one "negative" test result take up so much space in my mind.

Results can trigger sadness, defeat, and grief

But, more complexly, every "negative" test is a reminder that I have a chronic condition. It’s a reminder that this is something I will have to deal with for the rest of my life. It’s a reminder that I am at greater risk of heart attack and stroke, which makes me scared for my future.

Most intensely, it’s a reminder that my Mom is no longer here, because I lost her to the same condition. These consequences of one “negative” test result triggers sadness, defeat, and grief in my heart.

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My blood test action plan

As a wellness professional and someone who values positivity in life, I’ve studied these effects on my mind and heart, and I’ve come up with a little action plan for every blood test that brings me equanimity.

The Blood Test Action Plan

1. Prepare for the test, physically and mentally
Blood tests themselves can be uncomfortable. The feeling of a needle in my arm and the off-chance that the phlebotomist has to poke around for a minute or so gives me a bit of anxiety.

To ensure that my blood test goes as smoothly as I can control, I focus on the following: To help blood flow easier, I make sure that I am well-hydrated and my arms are warm, and I do a couple of bicep curls with my purse while in the waiting room. I also focus on breathing deeply, counting to a count of 4 on my inhale and 6 on my exhale. This helps connect me to my parasympathetic state. I also make sure that I look away during the test, as I have a propensity to faint at the sight of a needle in my arm.

2. Create a positive association with the test
After every blood test, I give myself a reward. For me, it’s usually getting a whole grain bagel, scooped and toasted, with tofu veggie cream cheese. That little reward gives me something to look forward to, which makes the test itself not so bad!

3. Prioritize peace during the waiting period
It’s so easy for me to get ahead of the results, Googling new medicine and side effects before even knowing what my current levels are.

Instead of doing that, I do things that make me feel calm. I take a yoga class, go on a walk, garden, and meditate. If I notice anxiety, I talk to my husband about what I’m feeling and ask for a big hug.

4. Wait to hear from my doctor
My doctor has a portal that receives my blood tests often before I hear from them, so I will often know my results on my own time. I usually look at my results right away. Instead of going down a Google rabbit hole, I wait until my doctor calls or sends me a message to discuss their recommendations. They are the professional!

5. Feel the feelings
If my results are disappointing, I let myself take a breath and feel the feelings that come along with it. I use the following statement (that I learned in therapy!) as a mantra: "I’m feeling sad. It makes sense that I’m feeling sad, given the fact that I was hoping for more favorable blood test results. Even though I’m feeling sad, I am going to keep moving forward on this journey of navigating my condition."

This statement helps me name what I’m feeling, accept that feeling, and motivate me to keep going.

You are not alone

This little action plan has helped me countless times throughout this journey, and will continue to for the rest of my life! I hope it brings you a bit of comfort to know that you’re not alone in experiencing less-than-ideal results.

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The CardiovascularDisease.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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