What to Eat the Night Before a Cholesterol Test: Fasting and More

A health care professional may ask a person not to eat for a cholesterol test. However, this is not always the case. Unless a health care professional tells you otherwise, a person may eat and drink normally the night before a cholesterol test.

A cholesterol test is a test that looks at a person’s blood cholesterol levels.

This article looks at whether or not food consumption affects the results of a cholesterol test and which foods you should or should not eat. It will also discuss how to prepare for a cholesterol test in general.

If a healthcare provider has instructed a person to fast, they should not consume anything other than water the night before a cholesterol test.

Fasting means that a person should only drink water in the hours leading up to the test.

If a person does not have to fast, he should be able to eat and drink normally.

According to the American Heart Association (AHA), health care professionals have historically recommended people fast 9-12 am before getting a cholesterol test.

The United Kingdom’s National Health Service (NHS) explains that there are two ways to measure a person’s cholesterol.

One method is a finger prick test. In this, a person pricks their finger and places a drop of blood on a strip of paper. This strip of paper then goes into a machine that checks the cholesterol level within minutes.

Another method is to take blood from the arm. In this, a healthcare professional will draw blood from the arm and send the sample to a lab for results. This method may require a person to fast.

However, a paper in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology suggests that for people 20 and older who are not on cholesterol-lowering drugs, there appears to be little difference between fasting blood tests and non-fasting blood tests in their accuracy and ability to estimate cardiovascular risk.

The foods people eat can affect the level of triglycerides in their blood. Triglycerides are a type of fat in the blood. According to the article above, a fasting blood test may be necessary when the results of a non-fasting blood test indicate a triglyceride level of 400 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) or higher.

A person should discuss with a healthcare provider what type of test they will undergo and whether or not they should fast. Unless the health care professional requests otherwise, a person should be able to eat and drink normally before the test.

Read more about fasting for a cholesterol test here.

Before a person has their cholesterol test, they should inform a healthcare provider about their family history of heart health and any symptoms or medical conditions they are currently experiencing.

The person should also inform the health care professional of any medications, vitamins, herbal remedies or supplements that he or she is taking.

If the person is taking any medications that could affect their cholesterol levels, the health care provider may ask them to stop taking them for a certain amount of time before the test.

The person should only stop taking their medication if requested to do so by the healthcare professional and under medical supervision.

A cholesterol blood test measures the amount of each of the following in a person’s blood:

  • Total Cholesterol: This is the sum of the cholesterol levels in the blood.
  • Low Density Lipoprotein (LDL) Cholesterol: This is the type of cholesterol that contributes to the buildup of fats in the arteries, leading to a Higher risk heart attack, stroke and peripheral artery disease.
  • High-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol: Having a healthy level of HDL cholesterol can help protect a person having a stroke or heart attack. It returns the LDL to the liver, which can break it down and help remove it from the body.
  • triglycerides: These store excess energy from one’s diet and can contribute to the buildup in a person’s arteries.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)the ideal levels of each type are as follows:

  • Total Cholesterol: Levels below 200 mg/dL are optimal.
  • HDL cholesterol: Levels greater than or equal to 60 mg/dL are optimal.
  • LDL cholesterol: Levels below 100 mg/dL are optimal.
  • triglycerides: Levels below 150 mg/dL are optimal.

If a person’s blood test results show that their levels are not within acceptable ranges, they may need to make certain lifestyle changes, such as diet and exercise changes, to improve these levels.

The foods a person consumes can affect their cholesterol levels over time.

Some foods can help lower cholesterol. For example, soluble fiber can bind with cholesterol in the digestive system and remove it from the body. In addition, polyunsaturated fats can help lower LDL levels.

According to Harvard Health, a person should aim to include the following in their diet:

  • barley
  • oats
  • okra
  • eggplant
  • nuts, such as almonds, peanuts and walnuts
  • beans, such as kidney beans, garbanzo beans, and black-eyed peas
  • lentils
  • fruits, such as apples, citrus fruits and strawberries
  • soy

Read more about 15 foods that lower cholesterol here.

Food to avoid

The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health notes that diets high in saturated fat and trans fat are the leading causes of high blood cholesterol.

People should try to avoid foods rich in saturated and trans fats. These include, but are not limited to:

  • fried food
  • full-fat dairy products, such as cream
  • animal fats, including butter, lard and margarine
  • fatty meats

In some cases, you may need to fast the night before a cholesterol test. However, this is not always the case. A person should speak with a health care professional about whether or not to fast before their test.

If fasting is not necessary, the person should be able to eat and drink normally before the test.

The CDC recommends that most adults have their cholesterol levels checked every time 4–6 years. People with heart disease or diabetes should have their cholesterol levels checked more often.

What to Eat the Night Before a Cholesterol Test: Fasting and More

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