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Do You Need To Fast Before A Cholesterol Test

What Do These Numbers Even Mean

Always Fast 12 Hours Before Your Cholesterol Test

After the test, youll take a look at your total lipid profile. Your doctor will explain whether your results appear normal, at-risk, or high.

These are the adult recommendations, according to the American Heart Associations 2018 guidelines. All values are in mg/dL :

Total cholesterol: All the cholesterol found in your blood

  • Good: below 200

Triglycerides: A major type of fat in the body

  • Good: below 149
  • Borderline: 150 to 199
  • High: 200+
  • Very high: 500

Folks with conditions like diabetes might need to shoot for lower numbers, so chat with your doctor to know whats right for you. Cholesterol guidelines also vary by age: Kids should have lower levels than adults.

If your numbers are in the at-risk zone, your doctor may recommend lifestyle changes to lower them.

Fasting Before A Cholesterol Test

Ideally, you should fast before a cholesterol test. Fasting means not eating or drinking anything except water for up to 8-12 hours before your test. Doing your test in the morning can make this part of the process easier.

Fasting is important because a recent meal could affect your LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels.

The Deal With Ldl Testing

A lipid test involves taking a blood sample from a vein, typically in the arm.

Afterward, youll need to press down on the site with gauze or a bandage for 2 minutes or so. Then you can go about your day as usual. You should feel little to no pain or discomfort.

Your doctor will send over your lab results in about 24 hours.

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More Evidence That Fasting Not Needed Before Cholesterol Tests

This page was fact checked by our expert Medical Review Board for accuracy and objectivity. Read more about our editorial policy and review process.

A new analysis recently published in JAMA Internal Medicine adds to the evidence that people may not have to fast before blood tests to check their cholesterol and other lipid levels. Researchers from Brigham and Womens Hospital, Harvard Medical School, and Imperial College in London reviewed data from a study called the Anglo-Scandinavian Cardiac Outcomes TrialLipid Lowering Arm for their analysis.

Blood tests to check lipid levels, including total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, and triglyceride levels, are done routinely to help determine a persons risk of heart disease and to decide if and what treatment is necessary. Adults are usually instructed to fast for 9 to 12 hours before these tests, which are typically done together as a lipid panel.

The analysis found little difference between the fasting and non-fasting lipid results from the same individuals, according to the authors. The only difference was moderately higher triglyceride levels in non-fasting samples, which was expected. The researchers also found that fasting and non-fasting lipid levels had similar associations with coronary events. Non-fasting lipid levels reflected risk for heart disease similar to fasting levels.

How To Test Your Cholesterol Levels

Do You Need To Fast Before Your Cholesterol Test?

To test your cholesterol levels, you need to collect a blood sample. The two main ways to do this are to do:

  • a venous blood test a trained professional will use a needle to puncture a vein, usually in your arm, to collect a blood sample.
  • a finger-prick blood test using a lancet, you can prick your own finger and collect a small blood sample.

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Why You Should Measure Your Cholesterol

While cholesterol is essential for your health, if it gets too high it might increase your risk of heart disease putting you at risk of things like a heart attack or stroke.

There are a number of things that can raise your cholesterol to an unhealthy level:

  • eating foods high in cholesterol, saturated fats, and trans fats can increase your levels
  • lack of exercise
  • drinking too much alcohol
  • a genetic condition called familial hypercholesterolaemia

There arent any signs of high cholesterol until something goes wrong, like a heart attack. So measuring your cholesterol levels regularly is recommended.

Regular cholesterol tests are particularly important if you:

  • are overweight or obese
  • have a family history of high cholesterol or heart disease
  • have high blood pressure, coronary artery disease, or diabetes
  • are on medication for high cholesterol and need to track your levels

Do You Really Need To Fast Before A Cholesterol Test

Written byBel Marra HealthPublished onJanuary 17, 2018

When your doctor wants to check your cholesterol levels, they will give you a blood test requisition along with telling you that you need to fast for at least eight hours prior to completing the test. If you forget to fast before your cholesterol test, your results may not be accurate and the test would need to be redone.

But the notion of fasting prior to a cholesterol test may soon come to an end due to a new discovery from researchers at the Johns Hopkins University of Medicine.

Seth Martin is the lead researcher behind the method that calculates LDL cholesterol without fasting. Furthermore, it is believed that Martins new method may be more accurate at measuring LDL cholesterol than the current method of fasting.

Previous studies from Martin and his team uncovered that the method of fasting to measure cholesterol greatly underestimates cholesterol levels, particularly among those with high triglycerides, which can be dangerous for patients.

The researchers reviewed data previously gathered in the clinical repository. This data included triglyceride levels.The results uncovered that nearly 30 percent of non-fasting participants had greater than 10 milligrams per deciliter of inaccurate cholesterol measurements using the original Friedewald method compared to less than three percent inaccuracy when using the new method.

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Patients Wont Need To Fast Before Cholesterol Test At Singhealth Soon

SINGAPORE – Patients with ailments such as high blood pressure and diabetes will soon be able to skip the fasting process before taking a cholesterol test at SingHealth polyclinics.

This comes after a local study found that there was little difference in test results whether the patients, including those with high cholesterol, had fasted or not.

The change in requirement will help to reduce crowds at testing laboratories and polyclinics in the morning as patients can be scheduled for tests throughout the day.

Blood tests that require fasting are typically done in the morning as most patients fast when they are asleep.

“Removing the need for fasting will mitigate the discomfort and potential adverse effects of fasting, such as low blood sugar and dehydration, on our patients,” said Dr Ian Phoon, the main author of the study and clinical lead of the cardiovascular health workgroup at SingHealth Polyclinics.

Fasting for a cholesterol blood test usually means not eating or drinking anything but plain water for at least eight hours before the test.

Using a Paired Sample T-Test, the study found that the mean difference between the two test sets was insignificant.

HDL-C absorbs cholesterol and carries it back to the liver for excretion. LDL-C is bad cholesterol, too much of which can lead to a build-up of plaque in the arteries and cause heart disease or stroke.

Fasting In Your Future Heres What To Do

Health & Nutrition : How to Fast Before a Blood Cholesterol Test

If you have to fast, dont stress. Doctors usually schedule tests in the morning, since patients tend to prefer nighttime fasting.

Go ahead and hydrate with H2O beforehand, but avoid juice, soda, and other drinks. And skip the adult beverages for at least 24 hours, since alcohol can raise your triglyceride levels.

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When To Get Tested

Screening when no risk factors present: for adults, every four to six years for children, teens and young adults, once between the ages of 9 and 11 and again between ages 17 and 21

Monitoring: at regular intervals when you have risk factors, when prior results showed high risk levels, and/or to monitor effectiveness of treatment

When Can I Eat Or Drink Again

As soon as your blood is taken, your fast is over. You might want to bring a snack and a drink with you so you can eat as soon as possible after the test.

Show Sources

American Academy for Clinical Chemistry: “Basic Metabolic Panel,” “Comprehensive Metabolic Panel,” “GGT,” “Glucose Tests,” “Iron Tests,” “Lipid Profile,” “Renal Function Panel,” “Vitamin B12 & Folate.”

British National Health Service: “Can I Eat and Drink Before Having a Blood Test?”

Crystal Moore, MD, PhD, FCAP, anatomical and clinical pathologist, Chesapeake, VA.

National Heart Lung and Blood Institute: “What Are Blood Tests?”

Nemours Foundation: “Blood Test: Comprehensive Metabolic Panel .”

Providence Laboratory Services : “Fasting Instructions.”

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Things To Do To Reduce Cholesterol Before The Blood Test

There are a handful of natural everyday modifications that you can implement into your daily routine to drop your cholesterol levels.


From full-fat dairy and sugary beverages to processed madness, you simply must avoid this range of food-types if you want to take cholesterol-lowering seriously.

  • You can still consume meat. As long as you pair your meals with fresh fruits, whole grains, and veggies.
  • Plants rich in fibre are excellent choices, particularly soluble fibre.
  • Recommendations: berries, barley, beans , oats, yams.

Plant Protein

In close connection to the previous point, consuming plant-based protein is a step in the best direction.

  • Beans, beans, and more beans.
  • Recommendations: Pinto, soy, lentils, red.
  • Unlike animal protein, which raises blood pressure, beans are renowned for bringing it down.
  • They also reduce blood sugar and insulin levels that have led scientists to believe beans play a significant role in cancer prevention and treatment.

Good Fat

If youve heard the name omega-3 fatty acids, then you can be sure the Diet-Universe has spoken to you.

  • This is not just good fat, but great fat, owing in large part to how well it fights heart disease.
  • Food sources: sardines, herring, salmon, trout, mackerel, halibut.

Below are some bad fats you absolutely need to avoid if you have any plans of getting your cholesterol under control.

White Foods


You knew this point was going to land at your door sooner or later.

What Does The Test Result Mean

You Don

In general, healthy lipid levels help to maintain a healthy heart and lower the risk of heart attack or stroke. A healthcare practitioner will take into consideration total cholesterol results and the other components of a lipid profile as well as other risk factors to help determine a person’s overall risk of heart disease, whether treatment is necessary and, if so, which treatment will best help to lower the person’s risk.

In 2002, the National Cholesterol Education Program Adult Treatment Panel III provided the guidelines for evaluating lipid levels and determining treatment. However, in 2013, the ACC and AHA issued guidelines for adults that made recommendations on who should receive cholesterol-lowing therapy. .

However, use of the updated guidelines remains controversial. Many still use the older guidelines from the NCEP ATP III to evaluate lipid levels and cardiovascular disease risk:

For adults, in a routine setting where testing is done to screen for risk, the test results are grouped in three categories of risk:

For children and adolescents:

  • A cholesterol below 170 mg/dL is acceptable.
  • A result of 170-199 mg/dL is borderline.
  • A total cholesterol reading greater than or equal to 200 mg/dL is considered high.

For young adults:

  • A cholesterol below 190 mg/dL is acceptable.
  • A result of 190-224 mg/dL is borderline.
  • A total cholesterol greater than or equal to 225 mg/dL is considered high.

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Can You Check Cholesterol Without A Blood Test

During a cholesterol test procedure, a blood sample will have to be taken from a vein in your arm.

To do so, a tourniquet is tied around your arm just above the elbow. A needle is then inserted into a vein in your arm near the inside of your elbow. Once the needle is positioned, a small amount of blood is withdrawn and collected in a vial or a syringe.

After the blood is collected, the needle is removed from the vein, and the tourniquet is removed from your arm. A small cotton ball is pressed over the puncture site to stop any bleeding. A Band-Aid may be placed to protect clothing should a small amount of blood leak out of the puncture site.

How long does a cholesterol take?

Having blood tests drawn takes only a few minutes.

Does a cholesterol test hurt?

Blood tests cause a minimal amount of discomfort. Some people do have anxiety about having blood drawn and it may be worse than the pain of the procedure.

Risky Results What To Expect

If your results come back borderline or a little high, dont sweat it just yet. Its not just you: Almost one-third of American adults have high cholesterol. And you can totally bring down your levels and boost your health.

Heres what your doctor might recommend:

  • Load up on fresh fruits and veggies and cut back on saturated fats in foods like cheese, bacon, egg yolks, whole milk, and dairy-based desserts.
  • Eat high fiber foods like oatmeal, beans, and healthy fats .
  • If you smoke, work on quitting.
  • Exercise more often.
  • Limit alcohol to one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men.
  • In some cases, your doctor might prescribe cholesterol medication.

Your doctor will likely advise more regular tests until you get back on track. You may also need to get checked more often if you have a family history of high cholesterol.

Read Also: Ldl Cholesterol Effects

Getting Your Cholesterol Checked

Many people have never had their cholesterol checked, so they dont know whether they are at risk.

High cholesterol usually has no signs or symptoms.

The only way to know whether you have high cholesterol is to get your cholesterol checked. Your health care team can do a simple blood test, called a lipid profile, to measure your cholesterol levels.

My Doctor Told Me I Had A High Cholesterol Test But Instead Of Treating Me He Told Me To Wait A Few Months And Test It Again Why

Cholesterol Testing, To Fast or Not To Fast?

Cholesterol levels fluctuate over time. A single measurement of cholesterol may not always reflect the “usualâ cholesterol level. For this reason, you may have at least two different measurements several weeks to several months apart before beginning any kind of treatment.

  • Conditions: Heart Disease, Cardiovascular Disease, Heart Attack, StrokeScreening: High Cholesterol – Children , Teens , Young Adults , Adults , Adults In the News: More Evidence That Fasting Not Needed Before Cholesterol Tests , Assessing Personal Risk of Heart Attack and Heart Disease

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    Do You Need To Fast Before A Cholesterol Test

    July 17, 2014 Do you really need to check your cholesterol levels on an empty stomach? New research suggests checking your cholesterol even if youâve eaten gives you similar information.

    Using data from the National Health and Nutrition Survey III , Bethany Doran, MD, of the NYU School of Medicine, and her colleagues found that higher LDL levels were linked to a higher risk of death. And it didnât matter if the test was taken after fasting overnight or after eating.

    Based on the clinical guidelines, weve been advising patients to fast before a lipid panel, senior investigator Sripal Bangalore, MD, of the NYU School of Medicine, told heartwire. But we might see the patient today, tell the patient to fast and come back another day for the test, and then I have to wait for the results. Its a lot of inconvenience, for the patient and also for us. Were able to start therapy only when we know their results. And we lose patients who simply drop out because they dont have the time to come back again.

    For the study, published in the journal Circulation, researchers looked at 8,598 people who measured their cholesterol levels in the NHANES III study and were followed for about 14 years.

    Increasing LDL levels were linked to an increasing risk of death for any reason in those who were fasting or not before their cholesterol test. This same group also had a greater risk of death from heart and blood vessel disease.

    When Would I Need A Fasting Lab Test

    If you have one or more of these symptoms, your doctor may order a fasting lab test.

    • Excessive urination and thirst
    • A yellowish tint to your skin and/or eyes
    • Fatigue and an irregular heartbeat
    • Pale skin and leg cramps
    • Non-specific symptoms that are difficult to diagnose

    If youre having symptoms that just dont feel right, so they can request the appropriate tests.

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    No Need To Fast Before A Cholesterol Test

    University of Copenhagen The Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences
    Patients do not need to check their cholesterol levels on an empty stomach, new research from Denmark, Canada and the US involving more than 300,000 individuals suggests. So far fasting has been required before cholesterol and triglyceride measurement in all countries except Denmark, where non-fasting blood sampling has been used since 2009.

    New research from Denmark, Canada and the US involving more than 300,000 individuals suggests that patients do not need to check their cholesterol levels on an empty stomach. So far fasting has been required before cholesterol and triglyceride measurement in all countries except Denmark, where non-fasting blood sampling has been used since 2009.

    Fasting is a problem for many patients, and the latest research shows that cholesterol and triglyceride levels are similar whether you fast or not. Therefore, it is now advised that patients no longer need to fast. “This will improve patients compliance to preventive treatment aimed at reducing number of heart attacks and strokes, the main killers in the world,” says Clinical Professor Borge Nordestgaard, Department of Clinical Medicine, Herlev Hospital, University of Copenhagen.

    The research has just been published in the European Heart Journal.

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