Process and what to expect

A lipid panel is a blood test that shows abnormalities in a person’s lipids. It measures cholesterol levels and triglycerides. Doctors use these tests to assess the risk of cardiovascular disease.

A lipid panel assesses a person’s cholesterol levels.

Cholesterol is a waxy substance that the body uses to produce certain hormones and build the outer membrane of cells. Although the body needs a certain amount of cholesterol, excess levels can block blood vessels and increase the risk of heart disease, stroke and atherosclerosis.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that people have a cholesterol check in childhood or adolescence and have the test every 5 years after age 20. It also recommends more frequent testing for people with cardiovascular disease risk factors.

This article looks at lipid panels, including the procedure and what to expect.

A lipid panel is a blood test that measures the number of fat molecules called lipids in the blood. The lipid test measures four stuff:

  • Low Density Lipoprotein (LDL) Cholesterol: Also known as “bad” cholesterol, it can build up in the arteries and increase the risk of cardiovascular disease.
  • High-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol: Known as “good” cholesterol, it can reduce LDL buildup in the arteries.
  • Total Cholesterol: This is the total cholesterol level of LDL and HDL combined.
  • Triglycerides: This type of fat comes from the foods people eat. Excess amounts of triglycerides in the blood can influence the onset of cardiovascular disease.

Healthcare professionals use lipid panel blood tests to monitor a person’s cardiovascular health. They do this by checking the cholesterol and triglyceride levels in their blood.

Some reasons a doctor may request a lipid panel include:

  • monitoring cholesterol levels
  • monitoring the body’s response to certain medications
  • help diagnose other medical conditions such as liver disease

After taking a blood sample, a healthcare provider sends it to a laboratory. There they will assess the levels of the four lipid groups.

The optimal levels for each are as follows:

Atypical levels may indicate a higher risk of cardiovascular problems such as heart disease, heart attack and stroke.

If a person is at risk for cardiovascular disease, a doctor may order regular lipid panel tests. This will help them keep an eye on their cholesterol levels.

In addition, a doctor may order a lipid panel test for someone who has one or more of the following symptoms:

Children may need a lipid panel blood test if they are at risk for high cholesterol. Cholesterol levels in children may be due to hereditary factors, diet and obesity.

A healthcare professional will perform a blood draw on a person. They then send the blood sample to the lab for testing.

This section discusses what to expect before, during, and after the procedure.

Before

In general, a person should fast for up to 12 hours before the lipid panel blood test.

This means they must refrain from eating or drinking anything other than water. This is because eating or drinking before the test can alter the results.

However, folks can sometimes ask for a non-fasting lipid panel test.

Nevertheless, a person should ask a medical professional about the fasting requirements for their lipid panel. In addition, a person should inform clinicians if they accidentally break the fast.

During

On the day of the lipid panel test, a person can expect:

  1. A doctor will ask the person to sit down.
  2. A doctor will check the person’s arms for a visible vein, usually in the inner part of the elbow.
  3. As soon as they see a vein, they clean the area.
  4. Then they insert a small needle into the vein and take a blood sample. This can feel like a little squeeze.
  5. The doctor transfers the blood sample into a test tube.
  6. After the blood draw, the doctor removes the needle and applies pressure with a cotton ball to stop the bleeding.
  7. Finally, they place a bandage over the pull site.

The whole procedure usually takes less than 5 minutes.

After

After the test, a healthcare professional sends the sample to a lab for analysis. Once the results are back, they will contact the person to share and explain the results.

A lipid panel test is a simple procedure that does not carry any high risks. After the test, people can return to their daily activities.

However, a person should avoid vigorous exercise, drinking and smoking for a few hours.

Blood tests are one of the most common types of laboratory tests. While there is little risk involved, there may be bruising or tenderness at the test site. However, these will soon disappear.

A person can speak with a doctor to discuss any concerns.

The lab results come back to the doctor’s office in a few days. However, under certain circumstances it may take longer.

People measure cholesterol in milligrams (mg) of cholesterol per deciliter (dL) of blood. The table below shows what these test results can mean at each stage. In general, a combination of low LDL levels and high HDL levels is best for the heart.

Typical cholesterol adult results include the below.

Next steps for atypical results

There is no one way to treat atypical cholesterol and triglyceride levels, mainly because many factors can contribute.

In the case of an atypical result, a doctor may recommend at least one of the following following options:

  • continuation of regular lipid tests
  • adjusting one’s diet
  • adjust exercise habits
  • quit smoking, if applicable
  • taking medications that lower cholesterol levels

This section answers some frequently asked questions about lipid panels.

Does a lipid panel test liver function?

A lipid panel is a type of blood test that measures the amount of fat in the blood vessels. However, since the liver is responsible for synthesizing lipids, this test may give atypical results due to severe liver dysfunction.

Is there a no-fasting lipid panel?

There is a non-fasting lipid panel that does not need people to skip meals before the blood test.

A person must consult a medical professional to request one.

What Are the Warning Signs of High Cholesterol?

High cholesterol usually has no signs or symptoms until it causes other problems, such as heart disease or stroke.

The only way to determine a person’s cholesterol level is to perform a lipid panel.

A lipid panel measures cholesterol and triglyceride levels in the blood to assess the risk of cardiovascular disease.

While healthy adults should have their cholesterol tested every 5 years, people with heart disease should have these screenings more often. Those at risk for cardiovascular disease may also need regular lipid panels.

A doctor can create a treatment plan for people with high cholesterol to lower it. Treatment usually includes dietary changes, increased exercise, smoking cessation, and certain medications.

Process and what to expect

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