Last Updated on August 1, 2022 by Dr. Neeraj Gujar
LDL Cholesterol test Overview
LDL is the low-density lipoprotein. This is a type of cholesterol that you will find in your body. LDL is also known as bad cholesterol. Too much LDL can cause a buildup of cholesterol in the arteries. This can lead to strokes and heart attacks.
High levels of HDL (high-density lipoprotein) may lower your risk of developing heart disease. HDL transports LDL cholesterol to the liver for it to be broken down. This helps to prevent heart disease.
As part of routine exams, your doctor might order an LDL test to assess your risk of developing heart disease.
Why Test Is Done?
Although high cholesterol is not usually associated with any symptoms, it is important to have it checked regularly. Your risk of developing certain medical conditions that can be life-threatening is higher if you have high cholesterol.
Your risk of developing heart disease is increased if you have high cholesterol. Some of them include –
- Coronary heart disease
- Angina or chest pain
- Carotid artery disease
- Heart attack
- Atherosclerosis is the accumulation of plaque in your arteries.
- Peripheral arterial disease
Also Read: Lipid Profile Test: When & Why Should You Get Tested?
When To Get Tested?
The American Heart Association recommends that you should have your cholesterol checked at least every four to six-year if you are over 20 and have not been diagnosed with any type of heart disease. High cholesterol is not usually associated with any symptoms so it’s possible to not know that you have it.
You may need to have your heart health checked more frequently if you are at high risk for developing it. If you have any of these risk factors, your chances of developing heart disease are higher.
- Have a family history of heart disease
- Obese means you have a bodyweight index (BMI) of 30 or more
- Have low HDL (good cholesterol).
- Smoke cigarettes
- Hypertension or high blood pressure.
- Having diabetes
If you are already being treated for high cholesterol, your doctor may order an LDL test to see if lifestyle changes such as exercise and diet, or medication, have helped lower your cholesterol.
LDL levels are not usually tested in children. Children who are more at risks, such as children who are overweight or have diabetes or hypertension, should have their first LDL test done between 2 and 10.
Who should not be tested for LDL?
LDL testing is not recommended for children under 2 years of age. Individuals who have had an emergency such as surgery, heart attack, or other serious illness should wait six weeks before they undergo their LDL testing. LDL levels can temporarily drop in acute stress and illness.
Because pregnancy temporarily raises LDL cholesterol levels, new mothers should wait six weeks after giving birth to have their LDL levels tested.
How To Get Tested?
Do not eat or drink anything for 10 hours before the test. Food and drinks may temporarily alter the level of cholesterol in the blood. It is acceptable to drink water. It may be a good idea to schedule your test early in the morning to avoid fasting during the day.
If you are taking prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, or herbal supplements, tell your doctor. Your LDL levels can be affected by certain medications. Your doctor might ask you to discontinue taking them or adjust your dosage before the test.
Also Read: Important Medical Tests for People Above 50
During the Test
A simple blood sample is all that is required for an LDL test. This is also known as venipuncture or blood draw. The healthcare provider will clean the area where blood will be drawn and then apply antiseptic. Blood is typically taken from the vein in your elbow or at the back of your hands.
The healthcare provider will then tie an elastic band around the upper arm. This will cause blood to pool in your vein. The needle is then inserted into the vein and blood is drawn into a tube. A mild to moderate sensation of pain may be felt, similar to pricking and burning sensation. This pain can be reduced by relaxing your arm during a blood draw. During the blood draw, the healthcare provider will take off the elastic band.
After they have finished drawing blood, a bandage is applied to the wound. To stop bleeding and prevent further damage, you should keep the wound open for several minutes. The medical lab will test your blood for LDL.
After The Test
There is a very low chance of developing problems from an LDL blood test. Yet, there are potential risks associated with any procedure that causes damage to the skin.
- Multiple puncture wounds from difficulty finding a vein.
- Excessive bleeding
- Feeling lightheaded or fainting
- Hematoma is a collection of blood beneath the skin.
What To Do in Case of Abnormal Results?
A doctor may recommend that someone with high LDL cholesterol make the following changes:
- Stop smoking
- A diet low in saturated fats and trans fats is recommended.
- Limiting alcohol intake
- Getting regular exercise
- Managing stress
- Maintaining a moderate weight is possible.
- Sleeping enough
Your doctor might also recommend certain medications to lower your LDL cholesterol.
A positive outcome can be achieved by lowering LDL cholesterol levels. They can also be caused by health problems such as:
- Inherited lipoprotein deficiencies
It is best to have the results discussed with your doctor.
There are two main methods to lower your LDL cholesterol.
Also Read: 4 Blood Tests to Assess Your Heart Health
Lifestyle changes that promote a healthy lifestyle
- Healthy eating
- Weight Management
- Regular Physical Activity
Treatment with drugs
If lifestyle changes do not reduce cholesterol sufficiently, you might need to consider taking medication. There are many cholesterol-lowering medications, including statins. Different medicines have different side effects and work in different ways. Discuss your options with your doctor to determine which one is best for you. You should not stop making lifestyle changes even if you’re taking cholesterol-lowering medications.
Lipoprotein apheresis is a treatment that may be available to people who have familial hypercholesterolemia (FH). The treatment involves a filtering machine that removes LDL cholesterol. The machine then returns the remaining blood to the patient.
What factors can impact my LDL?
Your LDL level can be affected by:
- Diet. High levels of saturated fat and cholesterol in food can raise your blood cholesterol.
- Obesity. Being overweight can raise your LDL, lower your HDL, and increase your total cholesterol.
- Physical Activity. Lack of physical activity may lead to weight gain which can increase your LDL.
- Smoking. Cigarette smoking lowers HDL cholesterol. HDL is responsible for removing LDL from your arteries. If you have lower HDL, it can lead to a higher level of LDL.
- Age and gender. As men and women age, cholesterol levels increase. Women have lower total cholesterol levels before menopause than women of the same age. Women’s LDL levels tend to increase after menopause.
- Genetics. How much cholesterol you make is partly determined by your genes. A family history of high cholesterol may be a sign that there is a higher risk of developing it. Familial hypercholesterolemia (FH), for example, is an inherited type of high cholesterol.
- Drugs. Some medicines, such as steroids and blood pressure medications, may raise your LDL.
- Other medical conditions. Higher LDL levels can be caused by chronic kidney disease and diabetes. HIV/AIDS may also cause higher levels.
- Race. Some races have a higher risk of high cholesterol. Blacks, for example, have higher levels of HDL cholesterol than whites.
LDL blood tests are used to measure LDL cholesterol levels. Cholesterol plays a vital role in many bodily functions. High levels of LDL cholesterol could put someone at risk for heart disease.
Every 4-6 years, a person should have an LDL cholesterol test. People at higher risk should have their LDL cholesterol levels tested more often.
A person might need to fast for between 9 and 12 hours before they can undergo an LDL blood test. A doctor will collect a sample of blood from the patient during an LDL blood test. This will be sent to a laboratory for testing. After a person has received their LDL blood test results, a doctor can discuss any treatment options with the patient.
A doctor should be consulted if anyone is concerned about their cholesterol.
Also Read: HDL Cholesterol Test to Determine How Healthy You Are
You can bring in 5 lifestyle changes if your LDL is high. The options include –
- Reduce saturated fats
- Eliminate trans fats
- Increase soluble fiber
- Eat foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids
- Add whey protein
Some of the food items that are notoriously high in LDL cholesterol levels are red meat, fried foods, processed meats, and baked goods. If your LDL levels are high, then you should avoid these food items along with other lifestyle changes.
One large egg has around 186 mg of cholesterol that is found in the yolk. So, if your diet contains little cholesterol foods, then eating up to an egg a day might be an OK choice. If you are a fan of eggs but don’t want to add the cholesterol, then use only the egg whites.
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- How to get your cholesterol tested. (2014, August 5)
- LDL cholesterol: The test. (2015, October 29). Retrieved from
- Mayo Clinic Staff. (2015, September 4). High cholesterol