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A lipid test, also known as a lipid panel, is performed so that your doctor can get an accurate reading of the different types of fats in your blood. There are three main lipid tests in a typical clinical panel:
- High density lipoprotein (HDL), low density lipoprotein (LDL) and triglycerides.
- If your HDL is low or your LDL or triglycerides are high, you may have an increased risk of heart disease.
Who Should Get a Lipid Test?
Many doctors recommend that every adult have a lipid test about every five years until the age of 40, and then more frequently throughout the adult years. If you have an abnormal test result, such as high LDL, your doctor may recommend that you get a lipid test done more frequently, such as once per year or even once every six months. If you have additional risk factors for heart disease, such as if a sibling or parent had a heart attack at an early age, or you also have high blood pressure, you may also need more frequent lipid tests.
Preparing for the Test
In order for our doctors to receive accurate information from your lipid test, you will need to fast for about 12 hours before the test is performed. This is because the food that you eat can have an impact on the test results if a blood sample is drawn shortly after a meal. You can drink water to satisfy your thirst before the test. Being well-hydrated will make it easier for the phlebotomist to find your vein and collect the small blood sample.
How a Lipid Test is Performed
To perform a lipid test, a phlebotomist will clean your arm with a disinfectant and locate a healthy vein. The technician will then use a small needle and collection tube to collect a blood sample from one of the veins in your arm. Once the sample is collected, it will be refrigerated and sent for analysis. The laboratory will use specialized equipment to measure the lipid quantities in your blood. The results will be reported back to our doctors in 24 to 48 hours.
Making Sense of Lipid Test Results
Once your doctor has the lipid test results, you will be informed of your numbers. If any of your results are abnormal, this provides an opportunity to take action and improve your health. For example, if your LDL is slightly high, your doctor may recommend that you exercise more, consume less animal protein, and switch to healthier fats such as nuts or seeds when possible. If your results are significantly abnormal, your doctor may suggest making dietary and lifestyle changes as well as taking a statin medication that can bring your lipid levels back to normal. If you go on medication, you may need lipid tests every six months to one year for monitoring purposes.