Last Updated on July 28, 2022 by Dr. Neeraj Gujar
A complete cholesterol test can also be called a lipid profile or lipid panel. These tests are used to measure cholesterol and other fats in the blood.
Cholesterol, a waxy substance that your body requires to make certain hormones and build the outer layer of every cell, is what you need. While cholesterol is necessary to maintain a healthy body, excessive amounts can cause damage to your blood vessels and increase your risk of developing heart diseases such as heart attack, stroke, or atherosclerosis.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that cholesterol testing should start as early as during childhood and adolescence. And that you have your test retested at the least once every five years.
A lipid panel measures the amount and composition of fat molecules in your blood. Too many lipids in your blood (cholesterol or triglycerides), can lead to a buildup in your blood vessels, arteries, and blood vessels. This can lead to damage and increase your risk for cardiovascular problems. To assess the risk of heart disease, stroke, and heart attack in both adults and children, healthcare providers use lipid panels.
The following are some other common names for a panel of lipids:
- Lipid Test
- Lipid Profile
- Coronary Risk Panel
- Cholesterol Panel
- Fasting lipid panel or non-fasting lipid panel
Also Read: 4 Blood Tests to Assess Your Heart Health
Why Test Is Done?
A complete cholesterol test measures your blood levels of lipids or fats. It measures your:
- High-Density Lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL) is also known as “good cholesterol” because it removes LDL cholesterol from the blood.
- Low-Density Lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL) is also known as “bad” cholesterol. Too much cholesterol of this type can build up in your arteries. This increases your risk of Heart Attack, Stroke, or Atherosclerosis.
- Triglycerides are formed when fats in food are broken down by the body into smaller molecules. Your risk of developing heart disease is increased if you have high blood levels of triglycerides. High triglyceride levels can be caused by obesity, unmanaged diabetes, excessive alcohol intake, and high-calorie diets.
- Very Low-Density Lipoprotein (VLDL), a type of cholesterol found in blood, is linked to an increased risk of developing cardiovascular disease. VLDL is not often mentioned in cholesterol tests as it is not directly measured. Instead, VLDL levels can be calculated by taking 20% as your triglyceride levels. VLDL levels cannot be used to determine the treatment of high cholesterol.
- Total Cholesterol is the total amount of cholesterol in your body. This is the sum of your LDL and HDL. Only total cholesterol and HDL cholesterol can be directly measured. LDL and VLDL can be calculated based on your total cholesterol, HDL, and triglycerides.
Also Read: Troponin Test. Test Symptoms and Common Causes & How to Treat it
A provider may order a lipid profile for the following reasons:
- A routine test to determine whether your cholesterol levels are normal, abnormal, or fall into high-risk categories (intermediate, borderline, or high-risk).
- If you have had unusual results from a previous test, or if there are other risk factors for developing heart disease.
- Monitor your body’s response to treatments, such as cholesterol medication or lifestyle modifications.
- To assist in diagnosing other medical conditions such as liver disease.
When Get Tested?
Testing your cholesterol levels is very important if you:
- Have a family history of high cholesterol or coronary disease
- Are obese or overweight
- Drink alcohol often
- Smoke cigarettes
- Lead a sedentary lifestyle
- Have diabetes, kidney disease, an underactive thyroid gland, or polycystic ovarian syndrome
For most adults, the CDC recommends that you have regular tests every 4 to 6-years. High cholesterol and other risk factors are more common in those who have a history.
The CDC recommends that young adults, adolescents, and children have their cholesterol levels checked at least once between the ages of 9 and 11. A second check should be done between 17 and 21.
High cholesterol can also be a problem in children. Your child may require a lipid profile blood testing. Three factors can increase cholesterol levels in children: diet, heredity, and obesity. Most children with high cholesterol have a parent with elevated cholesterol.
Although lipid profile are mostly used by providers to monitor or screen cholesterol levels, they can also be used as part of the diagnostic process to diagnose certain conditions that could affect your lipid levels.
- Chronic kidney disease
Your provider may recommend that you have a lipid panel blood test if you are experiencing any of these symptoms.
Also Read: Thyroid Panel Test – The Purpose And What Diseases Does It Detect
How To Get Tested?
A phlebotomist is a healthcare provider that draws blood. However, any healthcare provider with training in drawing blood can do this job. The blood sample will then be sent to a laboratory where they run the tests using machines called analyzers.
Before the Test
Sometimes, your doctor might ask you to fast until your cholesterol is tested.
According to 2018 guidelines published by the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, a non-fasting test can detect high cholesterol and lipids in adults older than 20 years old who don’t take any medications to lower their cholesterol.
Fasting is a requirement. You should not eat or drink anything else than water for the 9-12 hours before your test.
You should also tell your doctor before you go for your test about:
- Any symptoms you may be experiencing or any health issues
- Your family’s history of heart disease
- All medications and supplements you are currently taking
Your doctor might ask you to stop taking any medications that may increase cholesterol, such as birth control pills.
It is important to check with your healthcare provider before you go to the test to determine if you have to fast. Follow the instructions given by your provider. If you are not following the instructions of your provider and break the fast (eat), let your provider know. The test is not as effective without fasting.
During the Test
Your doctor will take a sample from your blood to check your cholesterol levels. Usually, your blood will be drawn the next morning after you have fasted since the night before.
These are some of the things you might experience during a blood test or blood draw.
- A healthcare provider will place you in a chair and examine your arms to see if there is a vein. This vein is located on the inside of your arm, usually to the side of your elbow.
- Once they have located the vein, they will clean it and disinfect it.
- The doctor will then insert a tiny needle into your vein to collect a sample of blood. It may feel like a tiny pinch.
- A small amount of blood will be collected in a tube after the needle is inserted.
- Once they have sufficient blood for testing, they will remove the needle from the site and place a gauze or cotton ball on the area to stop bleeding.
- The bandage will be placed over the area and you’ll be done.
The whole process usually takes less than five minutes.
After The Test
Once your blood sample has been collected by a healthcare provider, it will be sent to a laboratory for testing. Your healthcare provider will share your results once the test results have been returned.
The site of your blood draw may cause slight tenderness or a bruise, but these usually disappear quickly.
The levels of cholesterol and triglyceride are measured in milligrams (mg) per deciliter (dL) of blood.
The ideal results are for most adults as follows:
- LDL: less than 100 mg/dL
- HDL: 40 to 60 mg/dL (a higher number is better)
- Total cholesterol: less than 200 mg/dL
- Triglycerides: less than 150 mg/dL
- VLDL levels: under 30 mg/dL
Your doctor might order a glucose test if your results are not normal. This will check for diabetes. To determine if you have an underactive thyroid, they might order a Thyroid Function Test.
Your results may be considered borderline, intermediate, or high-risk for heart disease if they are not within the target range. Your risk of developing cardiovascular disease can be increased by having higher than normal levels of total cholesterol, LDL, and triglycerides, and lower levels of HDL.
It is rare for someone to have an abnormally low level of cholesterol.
Do I need to be concerned if my lipid profile results are abnormal?
Your lipid profile tests may show that you have high levels or lows of HDL, total cholesterol, and/or LDL. However, this does not necessarily indicate that you are suffering from a medical condition.
Many factors can affect your healthy cholesterol levels. When interpreting your results from the lipid panel, your healthcare provider will consider these factors:
- Your age
- Your overall health
- Your medical history
- Current medications
- You may also be at risk for developing cardiovascular disease
These factors are used by many health providers to determine whether you require further treatment or tests. Talk to your provider if you have any questions about your results.
What To Do in Case of High Levels?
Lifestyle changes and medication can help lower cholesterol levels. Your risk of developing heart disease and other related problems may be reduced by lowering your LDL.
This will help you lower your bad cholesterol.
- If you smoke, consider quitting: Talk to your doctor about creating a smoking cessation program that works for you.
- A balanced diet: A balanced diet should consist mainly of unprocessed foods. Eat a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole-grain, and low-fat dairy products as well as lean protein sources. Increase your soluble fiber intake and reduce your consumption of saturated oils such as meat, butter, cream, and palm oil.
- Avoid trans fats: Artificial trans fats can be dangerous to your heart health and overall health. Avoid foods that contain partially hydrogenated ingredients.
- Keep a moderate weight: High cholesterol can be caused by excess weight. Discuss with your doctor what a healthy range looks like for you.
- Regular exercise: At least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity per week can help. This amounts to approximately 22 minutes of exercise each day.
- Limit your alcohol consumption: High alcohol consumption can lead to many diseases including high cholesterol, liver disease, and certain cancers.
Your doctor might recommend a ” therapeutic lifestyle changes (TLC)” diet. This meal plan will limit the amount of saturated fat in your daily diet to 7 percent. You must also consume less than 200mg of cholesterol each day.
Some foods that may help your digestive tract absorb less cholesterol are:
- Oats, barley, and other whole grains
- Fruits such as oranges, pears, and bananas
- Vegetables, like eggplant and okra
- Beans and legumes such as chickpeas and kidney beans, lentils, and chickpeas are all available.
Your doctor may recommend medication, such as statins if lifestyle changes alone are not enough to lower cholesterol. These medications lower your LDL.
To assess your risk for developing cardiovascular disease, a cholesterol test can be used to measure the levels of cholesterol in your blood.
Healthy adults should have their cholesterol levels checked at least once every five years. High cholesterol is more common in those with a history of high cholesterol or who are at higher risk.
Your doctor will be able to help you if you have high cholesterol.
High cholesterol treatment usually involves a combination of diet changes, exercise, quitting smoking, and medication.
At a Glance
Why get tested?
It is done as a regular health check-up for screening for heart problems. This test is also done for monitoring the treatment of heart problems and unhealthy lipid levels.
Do you need a sample?
A blood sample is drawn from a vein in the arm or fingerstick. Sometimes, depending on the health condition, a drop of blood is collected by puncturing a finger.
Do you need to prepare for a test?
It requires 9-12 hours of fasting before the test, and so is normally done in the morning.
An excess amount of fats known as lipid gets deposited in your artery walls. This increases your risk for heart disease.
In most cases, you will need to fast for at least 10 to12 hours before your lipid panel blood test. Fasting means not eating or drinking anything except for water. Yet, in some cases, you can get a lipid panel test without fasting.
A lipid panel is a blood test that measures lipids—fats and fatty substances used as a source of energy by your body. Lipids include triglycerides, cholesterol, high-density lipoprotein (HDL), and low-density lipoprotein (LDL).
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VLDL test. (2019).