What is a lipid blood test?

June 1, 2010

Lipids are a group of organic compounds which are greasy by nature and cannot be dissolved in water. A lipid blood test is basically performed to know the levels of different kinds of fats in the blood. It is also called a cholesterol test or lipid profile. High cholesterol levels are the main contributors to heart disease and strokes. Lipid panel checks the lipid levels in blood which are affected by fat in the diet. Lipid test are performed on plasma, the liquid part of blood which is without the blood cells. The test can even be performed on amniotic fluid that surrounds the fetus during pregnancy to determine the maturity of the fetal lungs.

A lipid panel test to check for heart disease and atherosclerosis, which is also called hardening of the arteries, measures:

  • Total cholesterol - sum of the different types of cholesterol.
  • High-density lipoproteins (HDL) or good cholesterol.
  • Low-density lipoproteins (LDL) or bad cholesterol.
  • Triglycerides, which store energy until the body needs it.

The main purpose of a lipid blood test is to determine the abnormal concentrations (high or low) of a specific lipid. Both high and low concentrations of lipids in the blood can cause serious health problems.

In case of low levels of cholesterol, the person may suffer from liver failure and inherited disorders of cholesterol production. High blood cholesterol may be inherited or result from biliary obstruction, diabetes mellitus, hypothyroidism, and nephrotic syndrome.

Triglycerides increase the viscosity of the blood and promote obesity and coronary disease. The elevated triglycerides levels are mainly due to diets rich in either carbohydrates or fats.

The cholesterol screening can be performed with or without fasting. The frequency of cholesterol testing again depends on the patient's risk of developing coronary artery disease. Acute illness, high fever, starvation, or recent surgery lowers the blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels.

In case you are scheduled for a lipid profile test, you must fast for 12 to 14 hours before the blood sample is drawn. If you are going for a LDL cholesterol test, you should also avoid alcohol for 24 hours before the test. You must completely avoid certain medications such as corticosteroids, oral contraceptives, diuretics, and some antibiotics, as they may affect the accuracy of the test results. In general, people who have high levels of total cholesterol, LDL and triglycerides, yet low levels of HDL, have an increased risk for heart disease and atherosclerosis.

Some people may experience some side effects after the lipid blood test and may require routine care of the skin around the needle puncture. They may have a small bruise or swelling. In such cases, you must compress the area with a washcloth soaked in warm water.

Even if you are healthy, it is advisable to undergo a lipid panel test so that you can monitor your fat profile. If there is an abnormal value in your lipid profile, you should modify your lifestyle and diet to avoid other underlying diseases. You should avoid eating fat-rich foods such as dairy products and instead, should eat plenty of fruits and vegetables. You must exercise regularly to lower your cholesterol.

Submitted by M T on June 1, 2010 at 09:06

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