What are tests to diagnose cholesterol? It is a blood test to measure different lipid levels in the blood to assess cardiovascular risk.
9 Surprising Tests to Assess Heart Health
Lipidology has been in fast paced development. Thus, there are various traditional and modern tests available for cholesterol diagnosis and management. These tests are:
- Lipoprotein profile test is an early cholesterol test. It provides levels of HDL, VLDL, LDL and total cholesterol.
- Particle number test is one of the modern tests. It measures the number of LDL/HDL particles in a specific volume of blood.
- Particle size test is another the modern tests. It measures LDL/HDL particles sizes of the specific volume of blood.
Early cholesterol diagnosis helps to protect from heart diseases. There are many direct tests to check heart health. Some tests to assess heart disease risk are:
- C-Reactive Protein (CRP) is an inflammation marker test; CRP is the reliable predictor of heart health than high cholesterol level.
- Fibrinogen is a platelet stickiness test; elevated level might be a risk towards plague formation.
- Lipoprotein (a) Lp (a) is a special test to measure apolipoprotein (a) containing LDL. Studies confirmed the high percentage of heart attacks occurred in high Lp (a) level individuals.
- Homocysteine is a test to determine folate or B12 deficient. It helps to diagnose the inherited disorder called homocystinuria. This condition may increase the risk of heart attack or stroke.
- Interleukin-6 is an inflammatory cytokine stimulates the liver to produce CRP; it has a strong association with heart disease and asthma.
- Coronary Calcium Scan helps to view coronary calcification. Calcification is a major risk factor predicting heart disease and future heart attacks.
Does traditional cholesterol test truly useful?
The traditional lipid profile is the basic cholesterol test. Lipid profile test is a good start to determine cardiovascular risk. But, it is better to combine with advanced testing to get an accurate picture of total health.
The cholesterol numbers are a bad predictor of heart disease. Half of the people hospitalized with heart attacks has normal cholesterol levels. Also, half the people with elevated cholesterol have been healthy.
High cholesterol level is a sign of other health conditions. The blood cholesterol tests help investigate and treat the respective health condition. A cholesterol test is not effective to predict heart health or disease. Instead, it is useful to diagnose underlying health conditions. Some of those underlying conditions are subclinical hypothyroidism, liver problem, inflammation, etc.
There is a strong link between low cholesterol level and cancer. So, the cholesterol test is important to assess & maintain your health.
Familial hypercholesterolemia patients should test and manage their cholesterol level to prevent cardiovascular disease. Cholesterol testing helps to lower their risks. So lipid profile test considered as a preventive health care test for them.
Who should test their cholesterol level and how often?
All adults over 20 years should undergo a complete lipid profile test for every five years. If the lipid levels are many times normal, go longer between tests. If you have high lipid levels, assess the underlying conditions. And treat the underlying condition until lipid level normalizes. During this time, you need more frequent testing.
Diabetes, hypertension, heart disease or stroke patients take lipid profile test once every year.
Is fasting necessary before a cholesterol test?
Before taking the cholesterol test, you need at least 9 to 12 hours of fasting. That is not eating or drinking anything except water.
Recent study confirms lipid profile results with or without fasting has marginal variation.
Fasting and non-fasting results affect the lipid level only marginally. Triglycerides less than 20%, calculated LDL less than 10%, and Total & HDL less than 2%.
Fasting (drink only water) for 9 to 12 hours before cholesterol test is advisable.
Lipoprotein profile test provides information on:
- Total cholesterol,
- LDL or so-called bad cholesterol (actually not),
- HDL or so-called good cholesterol (actually not sure) and
- Triglycerides levels in the blood.
Influencing factors for cholesterol test
Immediate after illness, the cholesterol level drops for a while. In particular, after a heart attack, stroke, surgery, or accident.
After an illness, you should wait for at least six weeks for the cholesterol level to stabilize.
The cholesterol level is normal to elevate during pregnancy.
It is advisable to take cholesterol test at least six weeks after giving birth.
Some medications may elevate your cholesterol level. These medicines are
- Anabolic steroids,
- Oral contraceptives and
- Vitamin D.
Before a cholesterol test, it is better to stop these medications at least for 24 hours.