Plasma, Platelets, RBC, and WBC
Within your circulatory system, blood is carrying oxygen and nutrients from your heart to your other vital organs. If you accidentally cut or injure yourself, you may see the blood simply as a red, liquid substance. However, it is comprised of four main components: plasma, platelets, red blood cells (RBC) and white blood cells (WBC). Even though the difference between these components is not visible to the naked eye, all four are present.
Plasma is the fluid part of blood that platelets, red blood cells (RBC), and white blood cells (WBC) are suspended in. It may be surprising to find out that despite your blood being red, the liquid part of the blood is actually colorless! 90% of your plasma is water, which makes it the ideal lubricant for flowing through your veins, arteries, and capillaries. The other 10% is salts, antibodies, hormones, enzymes, nutrients, and other proteins that allow the blood to form a firm clot to stop bleeding. Plasma is the largest component of your blood. It makes up around 55% of your blood volume.
The primary purpose of plasma is to transport platelets, red blood cells, white blood cells, oxygen, nutrients, and other antibodies to vital organs and tissues located throughout your body. However, plasma also helps regulate a satisfactory blood pressure and maintain an appropriate pH balance.
Platelets are the cells in blood that are absolutely crucial to the process of forming a clot, or scab. Despite the red color of blood and the often dark burgundy color of external blood scabs, platelets are colorless like plasma.
When platelets aren’t active (not forming a blood clot or scab) they are shaped like a plate (hence the name). When a blood vessel becomes damaged, it sends out a signal for the platelets. The platelets travel to the damaged vessel and transform into a spider or octopus shape in order to attach themselves to the blood vessel.
A healthy platelet count falls within a wide range, from 150,000 cells to 450,000 cells for each microliter of your blood. If you have more than 450,000 platelet cells, you have a condition referred to as thrombocytosis. If you have less than 150,000, you have a condition referred to as thrombocytopenia. You can have a routine blood test performed referred to as a complete blood count (or CBC) to find out if your platelet count falls within the health range.
If you have too many platelets (thrombocytosis) you will be prone to spontaneous blood clots in your legs and arm. If left untreated, these clots can lead to a stroke or a heart attack. It is important to get a diagnosis and treatment if you have thrombocytosis. Symptoms of thrombocytosis are not easily identifiable, so it is important to have a complete blood count performed to determine if you have too many platelets in your blood.
If you have too few platelets (thrombocytopenia) you will have a handful of easily identifiable symptoms. You can expect to experience frequent bleeding from the gums, nose, or GI tract, as well as easy bruising. Your platelet count can drop due to medications, inherited health conditions, certain cancers, chemotherapy, kidney conditions, or too much alcohol. Thankfully, thrombocytopenia is not generally a high-risk condition.
Red Blood Cells (RBC)
Red blood cells (RBC) play the exceptionally vital role of carrying oxygen from your lungs to the other organs and tissues in your body. Red blood cells have a flattish, plate-like appearance, similar to a doughnut without the hole punched all the way through.
The protein within the red blood cells (RBC) that carry the oxygen is called hemoglobin. The red blood cells also carry carbon dioxide from your organs and tissues to your lungs for disposal via exhaled breath.
Consuming foods that are rich in iron will help you maintain the health of your red blood cells. Vitamins E, B2, B23, and B3 are also good to keep in your diet organically (without taking a supplement) to keep your red blood cells healthy.
White Blood Cells (WBC)
White blood cells (WBC) play an important role in your immune system. Your white blood cells help fight off infections by actively attacking the pathogens that invade your body. Your white blood cell count can alert your healthcare provider to hidden infections or an undiagnosed medical condition. There are actually five different (major) types of WBCs: neutrophils, lymphocytes, eosinophils, monocytes, and basophils.