What to Expect From Your Cholesterol Test

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Do you have high cholesterol? If you automatically answered “no,” but you haven’t gotten a cholesterol test in the past several years, you might need a whole health check-up. 

Your body needs some cholesterol to function, but if you have too much cholesterol in your blood, it can build up inside your arteries, making it harder for blood to get through. Over time, this can set the stage for serious health problems, including heart disease, heart attacks and strokes.

It’s important to get your cholesterol checked regularly because high cholesterol causes no symptoms. The only way to know whether you have high cholesterol is by getting a simple blood test.

The American Heart Association recommends that all adults ages 20 and older get their cholesterol checked every four to six years. Some people may need more frequent testing. Talk with your doctor about what’s right for you. If your doctor says you’re due for a cholesterol test, here’s what it will entail.

Before the Test

Ask your doctor whether you need to fast before the test. If you do, avoid eating or drinking anything but water for nine to 12 hours before testing.

During the Test

For the test, a small sample of blood is drawn from a vein in your arm or obtained with a fingerstick. The process may cause minor discomfort, but it’s over quickly. Then the blood sample is analyzed to measure your cholesterol levels.

After the Test

Cholesterol levels are measured in milligrams per deciliter of blood (mg/dl). If a lab performed a lipid profile test on your blood sample, you’ll see four numbers in the lab report. In other cases, you may see only some of these numbers:

  • LDL is the “bad” form of cholesterol, which can clog up your arteries.
  • HDL s the “good” form of cholesterol, which helps clear LDL out of your arteries.
  • Triglycerides are fats in your blood, which can also affect your risk of having a heart attack or stroke.
  • Total cholesterol is a combined measure of LDL, HDL and VLDL cholesterol.  VLDL levels are generally estimated by dividing triglycerides by five.

In the past, doctors used one-size-fits-all cutoff points to decide whether cholesterol numbers were healthy or not. Today, however, the focus is on putting those numbers in context. Ask your doctor to help you interpret your results. Your doctor should also review your other risk factors for heart disease, such as your age, sex, family history, personal history of smoking, diabetes or high blood pressure.

Your test results and your risk factors give your doctor a more complete picture of your heart health. Then, if needed, your doctor can discuss preventive measures or treatment options tailored to your personal needs.

Connect with one of our expert primary care physicians today to get started on your path to heart (and whole) health by calling  Call844-362-2329.

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