What is a cholesterol test?

The National Heart Association recommends that all adults ages 20 and older have a fasting lipoprotein profile done every five years. This blood test includes checking your total cholesterol level, as well as your LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, HDL (“good”) cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Cholesterol and triglycerides are also referred to as lipids.

The fasting lipoprotein profile is tested through a small blood sample taken from your arm. 

You and your physician will determine your ideal cholesterol level. To do this, your physician will examine your cardiac risk factors and take any known cardiovascular disease into account. If you need additional support in controlling your cholesterol, The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center offers a specialty lipid clinic that your doctor may recommend for you.

What to expect during a cholesterol test?

Preparing for your procedure

Do not eat or drink anything for at least 12 hours prior to your cholesterol test. Check with your physician to determine if any of your medications should be avoided for the days leading up to your scheduled test. Make sure to bring all of your medications, as well as any herbal or dietary supplements and over-the-counter medications, to the test with you.

During your procedure

The procedure can be slightly uncomfortable during the blood draw, but it only lasts a minute. Remain still so that the medical technician can complete your test quickly. A medical technician or nurse will clean a spot on your arm with an alcohol swab and place a thick elastic band around the upper arm, helping your veins fill with blood. A needle is then inserted into your vein and blood is collected in vials. Once this is complete, the needle and band are removed from your arm and a pressure bandage is applied to the area. The blood vials are sent to the laboratory for testing.

After your procedure

You should feel normal after your fasting lipoprotein profile test is complete, although your arm may be a bit sore at the puncture site. Since you have been fasting, you might want to eat a snack shortly after the test has concluded.

The laboratory will send your blood test results to your physician a few days after your test. Your physician’s office will contact you with the test results and inform you if any follow-up steps are necessary. Treatment typically focuses on diet and exercise, as well as medications to get you to your target cholesterol level.

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