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How to Test for Cholesterol
How to Test for Cholesterol

How to Test for Cholesterol

What Is Cholesterol?

This is a natural fat-looking, waxy substance found in the body, and it plays an important role in the proper functioning of the body.

Cholesterol is used by the body to produce several hormones including vitamin D and bile acids which help in the digestion of fat. Do you know that for your body to function normally, it needs only a small amount of cholesterol? Any surplus amount might be packed up in artery walls throughout your body. This is not healthy and can cause:

  • Heart attack and angina, due to the narrowing of the coronary arteries in the heart
  • Stroke, as a result of narrowing in the carotid arteries that feed the brain
  • Peripheral artery disease, due to narrowing of the femoral arteries supplying the legs

How often to test for high cholesterol levels

The cholesterol and triglyceride levels in the blood can be measured using a blood tests. This test is also known as lipoprotein profile or lipoprotein analysis. It is done to measure:

  • Total cholesterol (the total amount of blood cholesterol)
  • Triglycerides (a fatty substance seen in the body)
  • High-density lipoprotein, HDL cholesterol
  • Low-density lipoprotein, LDL (bad cholesterol)
  • The risk of heart attack, peripheral artery disease, and stroke can be reduced with blood cholesterol measurement. Your cholesterol levels is a risk factor that can be managed.

High blood cholesterol levels, smoking, obesity, high blood pressure, amongst others are some of the risk factors that can be managed.

Fasting for cholesterol tests

Before taking a cholesterol test, you will have to fast. The essence of fasting is to get a good interpretation of your blood lipid levels. This fasting involves not eating or drinking anything besides water for 14 hours before your blood sample is taken. Alcohol should be avoided 48 hours to the test.

What's the duration of fasting before having a cholesterol test?

  • For 14 hours before the test, your doctor will ask you not to eat or drink anything besides water
  • For 48 hours before the test, you don't have to take any alcohol

But what about drinking coffee before a cholesterol test?

Sadly, this is a no-no. You should not drink coffee or any other liquid before your blood is drawn.

Can cholesterol level be measured without a blood test?

No! A blood sample has to be taken to perform a cholesterol test. Your nurse or doctor will tie a tourniquet around your arm right above your elbow to hold in enough blood. He/she will then insert a needle into a vein in your arm, close to the inside of your elbow. With the needle, a small amount of blood is withdrawn and collected into a vial.

The needle is removed from the vein when the blood is collected, and the tourniquet loosened from your arm. In order to stop blood from leaking out of the punctured area, a small cotton ball is pressed over the area and held in place with a band-aid.

How long does a cholesterol test take?

In just a few minutes, your blood can be drawn for the test.

Is the test painful?

Well, a very small pain comes with blood tests. Besides, some persons get anxious over having their blood drawn, and this alone might cause more pain than the entire process.

Need a private blood test in the UK? Visit Medical Express Blood Test Clinic in Harley Street.

So, can I start eating after a cholesterol test?

Yes, you can resume your normal diet after taking the test. Your doctor or healthcare provider may advise you on resuming any medication that was put on hold before the examination.

Interpreting the cholesterol test

Understanding the results of a cholesterol and triglyceride test depends on guidelines from several clinics. See the results and interpretation below:

Total cholesterol

Less than 200 mg/dL: desirable

200 - 239 mg/dL: borderline high risk

240 and above: high risk

High-density lipoprotein (HDL)

Lower than 40 mg/dL (in men), lower than 50 mg/dL (in women): increased risk of heart disease

Greater than 60 mg/dL: some protection against heart disease

Low-density lipoprotein (LDL)

Less than 100 mg/dL: optimal

100 -129 mg/dL: near optimal/above optimal

130 - 159 mg/dL: borderline high

160 - 189 mg/dL: high

190 mg/dL and above: very high


Less than 150 mg/dL: normal

150 - 199 mg/dL: borderline to high

200 - 499 mg/dL: high

Above 500 mg/dL: very high

Are there risks associated with cholesterol test?

Yes, but it is very minimal. Bruising may occur at the puncture site, usually when there is damage to the vein.

Persons on blood thinners listed below may have to apply extra pressure where the blood was drawn to inhibit the bleeding:

  • Dabigatran (Pradaxa)
  • Prasugrel (Effient)
  • Warfarin (Coumadin, Jantoven)
  • Rivaroxaban (Xarelto)
  • Apixaban (Eliquis)
  • Or clopidogrel (Plavix)

Having an infection is rare. If it does occur, it may be characterised with swelling, redness, and pain.

After or during the assessment, some persons might feel dizzy. This is as a result of the vasovagal reaction, where the heart rate is lowered and blood vessels become larger (caused by vagus nerve stimulation). The feeling of Lightheadedness doesn't last and is normally treated by lying down to rest for a while. Vasovagal reaction or near fainting is common with a blood test, but it's a normal and harmless occurrence.

When to start treatment for high cholesterol

Controlling your cholesterol is one of the several ways to lower your chances of having a stroke, peripheral artery disease, and heart disease. Reach out to our doctor on 02074991991 to learn about the benefits and risks of exercise, medication, and diet in the progressive control of body cholesterol.