Cholesterol is a waxy substance which your body requires to build outer membrane of each cell and produce certain hormones. Though only a certain amount of cholesterol is needed, having too much of it may lead to the accumulation of blood vessel and increase the risk of:
- atherosclerosis, hardening or clogging of arteries
- heart disease
What will a cholesterol test calculate?
A complete cholesterol test, also known as a lipid profile or lipid panel measures the levels of fats or lipids in your blood. It generally measures your:
- Low-density lipoprotein cholesterol: Also called LDL cholesterol, it is what you call “bad” cholesterol. Having too much of it causes cholesterol to accumulate on your arterial walls. This can be the reason for getting atherosclerosis, heart attack, and stroke.
- High-density lipoprotein cholesterol: Also known as HDL cholesterol, it is called “good” cholesterol as it removes LDL cholesterol from the blood.
- Very low-density lipoprotein: The blood contains another kind of cholesterol which has been linked to increased risk of cardiovascular disease. VLDL is not mentioned on your cholesterol tests as it is not directly measured but VLDL levels can be calculated by assuming VLDL levels of your triglyceride levels.
- Triglycerides: When you eat, the body breaks down fats in your food into smaller molecules known as triglycerides. Higher levels of triglycerides in the blood can increase your risk of developing cardiovascular disease. Having unmanaged diabetes, obesity, eating high calorie diet and drinking lots of alcohol may lead to high triglyceride levels.
- Total cholesterol: The total cholesterol of your blood is the sum of HDL, LDL, and VLDL levels. Total cholesterol as well as HDL cholesterol are the only levels you can measure directly. On the other hand, LDL and VLDL are both calculated values based on the measurement of your HDL, triglycerides and total cholesterol.
Who needs to perform a cholesterol test?
The testing for cholesterol testing is necessary if you:
- are obese or overweight
- have diabetes, kidney disease or polycystic ovary syndrome
- have a family record of high cholesterol
- suffer from heart disease
- smoke cigarettes
- have underactive thyroid gland
- drink alcohol often
- lead an inactive lifestyle
According to CDC, adults should conduct routine testing in every 4 to 6 years. People having family record of high cholesterol or other risk factors should get tested often. Besides, kids, adolescents and adults need to check their cholesterol levels when they are in the age group of 9 to 11 years and 17 to 21 years.
How to prepare for your cholesterol test
There are cases when the doctor may ask to fast before getting your cholesterol levels tested. But a non-fasting test may detect high lipids or cholesterol accurately in adults above 20 years who do not take medications to lower lipid levels.
If you need to do lipid blood test, then you should not eat or drink anything than water for at least 9 to 12 hours before the test.
Before conducting a cholesterol test, you need to inform the doctor about:
- any symptoms or health issues you may experience
- all supplements and medications you take
- your family history of heart health
The doctor may advise not to take cholesterol-raising drugs, such as birth control pills, just a few days before your test.
How can cholesterol levels be measured?
Your blood sample will be needed when the doctor examines your cholesterol levels. You may need to take blood in the morning, perhaps after fasting the previous evening.
A blood test takes a few minutes only for completion and is painless. It is generally performed at the diagnostic laboratory and there are cases when it can be done at the doctor’s visit, at a local pharmacy or at home.
The hazards of collecting blood for conducting cholesterol test seem to be lower. You might have minor feeling of discomfort, dizziness or pain after your blood extraction. There is minimal chance of getting infection at the puncture site.
How you can lower your bad cholesterol levels
- Say no to smoking: If you are addicted to smoking, then you should think of quitting it. Speak with the doctor about how you can create smoking cessation plan that will work the best for you.
- Eat a well balanced diet: You need to focus in eating a balanced diet that includes unprocessed foods mostly. Try to include a variety of vegetables, fruits, low-fat dairy products, lean protein sources and whole-grain products. Try to increase intake of soluble fiber and restrict foods that are high in saturated fats, such as cream, butter, palm oil and meat.
- Do not eat trans fats: Artificial trans fats are risky to your heart and health. Make sure you go through food labels and do not eat foods that list partially hydrogenated items on ingredients list.
- Exercise regularly: You should try to spend at least 150 minutes of aerobic activity each week in moderate intensity.
- Maintain moderate weight: Having lots of weight is among the risk factors for high cholesterol. You need to speak with the doctor about the correct weight for your body.
- Restrict consumption of alcohol: Too much consumption of alcohol is one of the leading risk factors for different kinds of diseases. Some of these include – liver disease, high cholesterol, different cancers types and heart ailment.
Having a cholesterol test will help to measure your levels of cholesterol and fats in the blood and evaluate the risk of getting cardiovascular disease. Most adults need to check their cholesterol levels in at least every 5 years. People who have a family record or increased risk of high cholesterol need to get tested more often. See a doctor when you need to conduct your blood test lipid profile.
If you are having high level of cholesterol, then the doctor may work together with you for creating a treatment plan to get your cholesterol levels in a healthy range. The treatment for high cholesterol consists of certain combination of increased exercise, dietary changes, medication and smoking cessation.