A Lipid panel test is designed to help your physician understand your cholesterol levels and more. High cholesterol can result in a significant amount of diseases, and the only way to know if you have high cholesterol is to perform a lipid panel because there are generally no overt signs or symptoms.
If your cholesterol gets too high then your arteries can get clogged which may result in a series of conditions like heart disease, stroke, and more.
Today we’re going to talk about what a lipid panel is and how it can help guide any diagnosing efforts by your physician.
What Exactly Is A Lipid Panel?
A lipid panel is a quick and painless blood test with the goal of measuring the amount of fat molecules (called lipids) within your blood. Often, this panel is a combination of four to five individual tests measuring all the different lipid variants residing within your blood. These tests are often used to understand your risk profile for cardiovascular diseases among other fat related illnesses.
What’s A Lipid?
A lipid is a chemical compound within your body helping it perform a variety of critical functions which include:
- Storing and creating energy
- Making membranes
- Absorbing vitamins and making hormones
- Digesting fat
Lipids have three primary structure types:
The most common name for lipids within the body is cholesterol (which is why a lipid panel is often called a cholesterol test).
What Does A Lipid Panel Test For?
A lipid panel is often a combination of individual tests for the different lipid types. These tests are looking to measure these five different types of lipids from your blood sample:
- Triglycerides – this is a fat you get from food and are associated with a variety of diseases when out of balance.
- Low Density Lipoprotein (LDL) Cholesterol – a type of cholesterol which is often referred to as “bad cholesterol” when it collects within your blood.
- Very Low Density Lipoprotein (VLDL) Cholesterol – this is usually tested during a fasting sample with the goal of understanding your metabolism.
- High Density Lipoprotein (HDL) Cholesterol – this is commonly referred to as “good cholesterol” because he helps fight against excess LDL cholesterol.
- Total Cholesterol – this test will measure the LDL, VLDL, HDL levels and their ratios.
These five tests are the most common way lipid panels are evaluated.
What Can A Lipid Panel Show?
One person every 34 seconds dies from heart disease. In fact, heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S.
Getting a cholesterol panel is a great way to screen and monitor your risk profile, helping you understand what your potential for these diseases might be.
Who Should Consider A Cholesterol Panel?
You should be open to obtaining a lipid panel test if you’re in a high risk profile for cardiovascular disease.
These risk factors include:
- Being over 45 as a male and over 50 as a female
- Smoking cigarettes or other nicotine products
- High blood pressure (hypertension)
- Diabetes (including prediabetes)
- A first degree relative (mother, father, sibling) with heart disease
- Physically inactive
Why Do You Need A Lipid Panel Test?
A lipid panel can help you evaluate the performance of your cardiovascular system. Like we mentioned earlier, the unusual thing about high cholesterol is the lack of symptoms. Without a test, you won’t know you have high cholesterol unless you experience a major event like a heart attack or stroke.
With that being said, a lipid panel can show how much cholesterol has built up within your blood vessels (and arteries) which can point to the level of risk for conditions like heart disease, heart attack, stroke, and more.
Your physician will often order a lipid panel for the following reasons:
- Diagnosis: this panel can help a physician know if you have any medical conditions.
- Screening: often annual physicals will include a lipid panel (if you fit into a high-risk category).
- Monitoring: If you’ve been put on medication or have made a significant life change then a lipid panel can help you with monitoring your progress.
What Are Normal Lipid Panel Results?
Lipid panels are measured in milligrams per deciliter of blood (mg/dL) and the optimal level for each are the following:
- Triglycerides: <150 mg/DL is considered normal or optimal
- Low Density Lipoprotein (LDL) Cholesterol – <100 mg/dL is considered optimal
- Very Low Density Lipoprotein (VLDL) Cholesterol – between 2-30 mg/dL is optimal
- High Density Lipoprotein (HDL) Cholesterol – >60 mg/dL is optimal
- Total Cholesterol – <200 mg/dL is optimal
As you can see, getting a lipid panel test is the first line of defense to understanding your body better and detecting the symptoms of cardiovascular disease before disaster strikes. If you’re interested to learn more please reach out to one of our physicians here at Lux Diagnostics.
Frequently Asked Questions
Will I Need To Fast For A Lipid Panel Blood Test?
Often a physician will ask you to fast for between 10-12 hours before your test. This means not eating or drinking anything except water. However, there are some cases where getting a panel without fasting is possible, but you’ll need to contact your physician to know more.
What Will Happen During My Lipid Panel Blood Test?
The test is very straightforward. You can expect to have a technician draw your blood by inserting a needle into your arm. You’ll feel a small pinch but usually nothing more. Once the needle is inserted the technician will draw the blood for testing. Once done they’ll remove the needle and put pressure on the site to prevent bleeding. It should last between 5-10 minutes at most.
Are There Any Risks To A Lipid Panel?
Blood tests are extremely common and there’s very little risk. You may experience bruising or tenderness at the draw site on your arm.
How Often Should You Get A Lipid Panel Test?
Most adults should have their cholesterol checked every 3-6 years. However, if you’re considered high risk (such as people with a history of heart disease, or those with diabetes, etc) should get a lipid panel every 1-2 years.
Are There Warning Signs Of High Cholesterol?
No, unfortunately there are no symptoms or warning signs of high cholesterol until it’s too late and a major event (heart attack, stroke, etc) has occurred. Blood tests are essentially the only way to determine if you have high cholesterol.