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Cholesterol Test Reasons, Who Needs It, Testing Procedure


These days a cholesterol test is somewhat taken for granted because it has become such a common test that is conducted in adults, particularly after the age of 45 years. But skipping a cholesterol test can mean that your doctor may not detect dangerous conditions early enough to prevent life threatening consequences. Never avoid a cholesterol test if you doctor prescribes one. It is important to understand what this test is about and why it is so important.



Cholesterol Test

Cholesterol Test



A cholesterol test is the common term for a lipid profile or lipid panel test. It is done to measure the amount of cholesterol and triglyceride in the blood. The cholesterol test indirectly helps to determine the risk of atherosclerosis, a condition where fatty deposits in an artery narrows it and may increase the risk of heart disease and a stroke. Raised cholesterol levels typically do not produce any symptoms. Therefore measurement of cholesterol in the blood is an important way to detect whether the patient is suffering from hypercholesterolemia and hypertriglyceridemia.

Reasons for Cholesterol Test

A lipid profile is prescribed with the aim of determining the cholesterol and triglyceride levels in the blood. It helps in estimating the chance of developing different types of cardiovascular disease. The test includes measurement of four types of lipids in the blood. These are total cholesterol, high density lipoprotein (HDL) or the “good” cholesterol, low density lipoprotein (LDL) or the “bad” cholesterol and triglyceride.

LDL cholesterol is mainly responsible for fatty plaques in the inner wall of the blood vessels which results in narrowing. HDL cholesterol is responsible for carrying LDL to liver thereby decreasing the level of LDL cholesterol and indirectly reducing risk of different diseases. Whenever the body encounters calories it does not require it converts the excess calories into triglycerides in the fat cells. A high triglyceride level is associated with a number of factors like obesity, high carbohydrate diet, alcohol intake, smoking, diabetes and leading a sedentary lifestyle.

Who Needs a Cholesterol Test

Cholesterol testing should be done in all adults over 20 years of age at least once in five years. Any type of acute illness, stressful condition or heart diseases may raise the cholesterol level abnormally. Regular testing is important in people having family history of high cholesterol or heart diseases or with any of the risk factors discussed above. More frequent testing should be done in men over 45 years and women above 55 years of age

Cholesterol levels often rise above the normal range during pregnancy therefore pregnant women should wait for at least 6 weeks after giving birth to undergo the test. There are number of drugs associated with raised cholesterol level like steroids, beta blockers, oral contraceptives, vitamin D and so on.

It has been found that children may have raised cholesterol level even at the age of 2 years, although not all the children are required to be screened for a raised cholesterol level. Tests are advised in children between 2 and 10 years with strong family history or in children with associated health problems like obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure.

Test Procedure

Generally fasting for 9 to 12 hours is required before testing but drinking water is allowed. The doctor may or may not advise against intake of chronic medication before the test. A cholesterol test involves taking a sample of blood, usually from the vein in the upper arm. The blood sample is then sent to a laboratory for testing. There is minimal pain. Although there are finger prick tests, these are not considered accurate for monitoring in high risk individuals and people with an elevated cholesterol and triglyceride level.

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