A Helpful Guide to Check Cholesterol Levels in the Blood
A lipid panel or lipid profile is the same thing. It is a complete cholesterol test that measures both ‘good’ and ‘bad’ cholesterol as well as triglycerides present in your blood. It is important to mention that Triglyceride is a type of fat, explains a healthcare practitioner in London.
Cholesterol is a much needed substance for proper body function. Basically it is a fat – soft and waxy by nature. Excess cholesterol in the blood raises the chances of stroke, heart disease and atherosclerosis. Males aged 35 and even younger should get their cholesterol level checked at routine intervals, suggests specialist doctors. If you want to be on the safer side, better get it checked every 5 years starting from the age of 20.
People diagnosed with heart disease, blood sugar, high blood pressure and stroke should check their cholesterol level every year. The same stands for those who are on medicine to control their cholesterol levels.
Are you at risk of high cholesterol?
This is a very relevant question in the present scenario, says a doctor associated with the Health Screening Clinic at Harley Street, Marylebone. Taking the cholesterol test is crucial for anyone under any of the following conditions:
- Having a family history of heart disease or high cholesterol levels.
- Alcohol addiction.
- Overweight or obese.
- Habitual smoker.
- Used to a sedentary lifestyle.
- Diagnosed with kidney problems, POS (poly cystic ovary syndrome), blood sugar or underperforming thyroid gland.
More about the cholesterol test
A full-range cholesterol test measures certain types of fats (also called a lipid) present in your blood. These include the following:
- Total cholesterol – the total quantity of cholesterol present in the blood.
- LDL ( low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol – also called ‘bad’ cholesterol.
[Excess amount of bad cholesterol in the blood puts you in a higher risk group from stroke, heart attack and atherosclerosis.]
- HDL (high-density lipoprotein) cholesterol – also called ‘good’ cholesterol, contributes to removing LDL from your blood.
- Triglycerides – your body converts the excess calories coming from the foods you eat to triglycerides and stores them in the fat cells of your body.
[Usually overweight people or those suffering from blood sugar, eat too many sweetened foods or drinks regularly or consume a high quantity of alcohol are more likely to have high levels of triglycerides in their blood.]
Run up to a cholesterol test
If you are having a complete lipid profile test, you should be on fast for at least 9 to 12 hours before the test. However, if the test involves only HDL and total cholesterol, it is okay to eat before the test. It is your responsibility to update the doctor before taking the test regarding the following:
- Any family history of heart disease.
- Any health-related issues or symptoms you are suffering from.
- The entire list of medicines and supplements you are currently on.
Certain medicines like birth-control pills raise the cholesterol levels in the blood. The doctor may instruct you to stop taking those medicines a few days before the test.
Cholesterol test procedure
In order to check your cholesterol levels, you have to take a blood test. A sample of blood is drawn from your veins, usually in the morning before you break the fast since the previous night. This blood test is thoroughly an outpatient procedure. The relatively painless method usually only takes a few minutes. You can also perform this at home as well as at your neighbourhood chemist shop.
- Walk-in clinics can quote you with anything between £38 and£80.
- Your local pharmacy can charge anything between £4 and £20 for it.
- At-home test will cost you within£12 to £20.
- If the blood sample is to be sent to a lab, the average cost rises to anything between £60 and £150.
An unwanted side-effect of having the blood sample drawn for cholesterol test is that you may undergo a slight faint or experience a kind of soreness and pain at the site of drawing the blood. However these problems do not last for long and often get sorted out automatically.
Insights about the test result
Cholesterol levels in the blood are measured in milligrams or mg (of cholesterol present per) decilitre (dL) of blood. Ideally, cholesterol levels for every adult are expected to be:
- LDL – within the range of 70 to 130 mg/dL (the lower the reading is the better).
- HDL – within the range of 40 to 60 mg/dL (the higher the reading is the better)
- Total cholesterol – anywhere below 200 mg/dL(the lower the reading is the better)
- Triglycerides – anywhere between 10 to 150 mg/dL (the lower the reading is the better).
If the cholesterol levels in your blood are beyond normal, you are at higher chances of suffering from stroke, heart attack and atherosclerosis. Doctors at the private Health Screening Clinic usually prescribe a blood glucose test for people with abnormal ranges of cholesterol in the blood to check for diabetes. You also may be asked to take a thyroid function test to ascertain whether your thyroid gland is functioning normally.
What about mistaken test results?
Cholesterol test results are not fully error-proof – like any other medical report. It is relevant mentioning that measuring the LDL cholesterol level frequently gives inaccurate findings. Other factors that contribute to mistaken test results include the following:
- Improper fasting
- Human error
Taking both LDL and HDL cholesterol tests at the same time is better as that provides more accurate results compared to the test that measures only the LDL level.
A combination of a controlled lifestyle and medication proves helpful in treating high cholesterol cases. It is important to lower higher levels of LDL in the blood in order to avoid heart attacks and strokes.
Effective tips to lower the levels of blood cholesterol
- Quit smoking.
- Quit alcohol.
- Avoid food items that have high levels of fat or sodium.
- Stick to a well-balanced diet.
- Eat loads of fresh, green, crunchy vegetables and fruits, whole-grain items and dairy products containing lower levels of fat.
- Food items with low levels of protein.
- Do little exercise regularly involving both aerobic and muscle strengthening activities.
Doctors usually put patients with higher levels of cholesterol on a TLC diet. TLC is the shortened form of ‘therapeutic lifestyle changes’ and under this diet plan, you will get only 7% of the daily calories from saturated fat. You also need to receive less than 200 mg of cholesterol from all the food items you eat throughout a day.
Some foods help your body to absorb less cholesterol. You should focus on such food items more, like:
- Whole grains like oats and barley.
- Fruits like banana, apple, orange and pear.
- Vegetables like eggplant and okra.
- Chickpeas, lentils and kidney beans.
People suffering from high cholesterol levels in the blood or have heart disease have a higher risk in developing obesity. You have to lose bodyweight by controlling your diet and working out more. Doctors are also known to prescribe medicines like statins to lower cholesterol levels particularly the LDL level in the blood.
The condition of high cholesterol levels in the blood is manageable, provided you are dedicated and pro-active. Request the doctor to design a plan for the health screening tests you must take on a regular basis. The more dedicated you are in changing your lifestyle, everyday diet and workout regimen, the better results you will have. If the doctor feels like, he or she may also prescribe you the necessary medications.
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