New Guidelines Simplify Cholesterol Tests: No Fasting Needed
Im supposed to have my cholesterol checked soon. Its a simple test, but Im not looking forward to it since it requires fasting overnight. And that means making a special early-morning trip to my doctors office.
But new international guidelines;say its OK even preferred to skip the overnight fast.
To learn more about this small but oh-so-useful shift, I talked with cardiologist Dr. Samia Mora. She helped write the new guidelines, which were published this week in the European Heart Journal and summarized in JAMA Internal Medicine. Mora is director of the Center for Lipid Metabolomics at Brigham and Womens Hospital and associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.
Questions To Ask Your Doctor
- Are there any risks to having a lipid panel blood test?
- Can lipid panel results be affected by a cold or the flu?
- Should I take my prescription pills before having the test?
- How soon will I find out my results?
- How do I prepare for the test if I have a latex allergy?
- What if I mistakenly eat something within the 8 to 12 hours before I take the test?
What Can Cause Unhealthy Cholesterol Levels
LDL cholesterol levels tend to increase as people get older. Other causes of high LDL cholesterol levels include:
- Family history of high LDL cholesterol
- High blood pressure or type 2 diabetes
- Not getting enough physical activity
- Eating too much saturated fat and;trans;fat; and not enough fruits and vegetables
- Taking certain medicines, like medicines to lower blood pressure
Causes of low HDL cholesterol levels include:
- Not getting enough physical activity
- Not eating enough fruits, vegetables, and unsaturated fat
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What Does A Cholesterol Check Involve
A cholesterol test involves a a simple blood test, this can be done in two ways: ;
You can eat and drink normally before your test unless your doctor asks you not to. If you have a sample taken with a needle and syringe, you might be asked not to eat for 10-12 hours beforehand, usually overnight.
Foods To Lower Cholesterol
The foods a person consumes can affect their cholesterol levels over time.
Some foods can help reduce cholesterol. For example, soluble fiber can bind with cholesterol in the digestive system and from the body. Additionally, polyunsaturated fats can help lower LDL levels.
According to Harvard Health, a person should aim to include the following in their diet:
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Who Is At Risk Of High Cholesterol
If you fall under any of these risk factor categories, you may be at risk of having an abnormal cholesterol level:
- Having a family history of high cholesterol or heart disease
- Having diabetes, kidney disease, polycystic ovary syndrome, or underactive thyroid gland
The biomarkers of cholesterol include measured total cholesterol, HDL, LDL, and triglycerides.
Does Medicare Cover Blood Tests For Cholesterol
- Does Medicare cover blood tests for cholesterol? Yes, it does. Keep reading to learn more about Medicare coverage for cholesterol testing and management.
Does Medicare cover blood tests for cholesterol? It’s a common question people ask about their Medicare coverage. High cholesterol is one of the risk factors for cardiovascular disease, so it’s important to have your cholesterol level checked regularly. Fortunately, Medicare covers a cholesterol test at least once every five years, more often if you’ve been diagnosed with high cholesterol and need to monitor how well your medication is working to treat it. Medicare Part D may also cover medications used to reduce your total cholesterol or LDL cholesterol level.
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How Often Do I Need To Get My Cholesterol Checked
The general recommendation is to get your cholesterol checked every 4 to 6;years. Some people may need to get their cholesterol checked more or less often depending on their risk of heart disease.
For example, high cholesterol can run in families. If someone in your family has high cholesterol or takes medicine to control;cholesterol, you might need to get tested more often.;Talk to your doctor about whats best for you.
How And When To Have Your Cholesterol Checked
Getting your cholesterol levels checked is an important part of staying healthy. High cholesterol increases your risk for heart disease and stroke, two leading causes of death in the United States.
Knowing your cholesterol status can help you stay in control of your health. Learn about cholesterol screening and why it is important.
Cholesterol is a waxy substance that your body needs to make hormones and digest fats. Your body makes all the cholesterol it needs, but you can also get cholesterol from eating certain foods, such as egg yolks and fatty meats. Having high blood cholesterol can lead to plaque buildup in the arteries, putting you at risk for heart disease and stroke. High blood cholesterol doesnt have symptoms, which is why getting your cholesterol levels checked is so important.
Learn more about cholesterol screenings.
You should get your cholesterol checked at least every 5 years. If you have cardiovascular risk factors, talk with your health care team about getting tested more often.
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Will Eating Or Fasting Affect The Results
According to the American Heart Association , in the past, healthcare professionals have recommended that people fast for 912 hours before having a cholesterol test.
The United Kingdoms National Health Service explains that there are two ways to measure someones cholesterol.
One method is a finger prick test. In this, a person pricks their finger and places a drop of blood on a strip of paper. This strip of paper then goes into a machine that checks the cholesterol levels within minutes.
Another method involves taking blood from the arm. In this, a healthcare professional will draw blood from the arm and send the sample to a laboratory for the results. This method may require a person to fast.
However, a paper in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology suggests that for people aged 20 years and older who are not taking cholesterol lowering medications, there seems to be little difference between fasting blood tests and non-fasting blood tests in terms of their accuracy and ability to estimate cardiovascular risk.
The foods that people eat can affect the level of triglycerides in their blood. Triglycerides are a type of fat in the blood. According to the paper above, a fasting blood test may be necessary when the results of a non-fasting blood test indicate a triglyceride level of 400 milligrams per deciliter or higher.
What Do The Test Results Mean
If you get a lipid profile test, the results will show 4 numbers. A lipid profile measures:
- Total cholesterol
- HDL cholesterol
Total cholesterol;is a measure of all the cholesterol in your blood. It’s based on the LDL, HDL, and triglycerides numbers.;
LDL cholesterol;is the bad type of cholesterol that can block your arteries;;so a lower level is better for you.
HDL cholesterol;is the good type of cholesterol that helps clear LDL cholesterol out of your arteries so a higher level is better for you.;Having a low HDL cholesterol level can increase your risk;for heart disease.
Triglycerides;are a type of fat in your blood that can increase your risk for heart attack and stroke.;
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How Should We Prepare For A Lipid Panel
Your child may be asked to stop eating and drinking for 8 to 12 hours before the test, and not to exercise for 12 to 14 hours before. Tell your doctor about any medicines your child takes because some can affect the test results.
Wearing a T-shirt or short-sleeved shirt for the test can make things easier for your child, and you also can bring along a toy or book as a distraction.
Can I Stay With My Child During A Lipid Panel
Parents usually can stay with their child during a blood test. Encourage your child to relax and stay still because tensing muscles can make it harder to draw blood. Your child might want to look away when the needle is inserted and the blood is collected. Help your child to relax by taking slow deep breaths or singing a favorite song.
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Does Medicare Cover Blood Tests For Cholesterol Screening
So, does Medicare cover blood tests for cholesterol? The answer is yes. Medicare Part B covers cardiovascular disease screening tests once every five years. Unlike many services covered by Part B, this screening is provided at no cost to you. Cardiovascular disease screening includes blood tests for total cholesterol, high-density lipoprotein , low-density lipoprotein and triglycerides. Having the recommended screening tests can help determine if you have an elevated risk of heart disease, stroke or heart attack.
Low-density lipoprotein, known as “bad” cholesterol, contributes to arterial plaque, a sticky substance that can block blood vessels and restrict blood flow. High-density lipoprotein is known as “good cholesterol” because it seems to have a protective effect on your cardiovascular system. HDL carries LDL out of your bloodstream, preventing plaque from building up in your arteries. Triglycerides are a type of fat stored in your fat cells to be used as a source of energy when needed. If your triglyceride levels get too high, you may have an increased risk of developing diabetes or heart disease.
Although free cardiovascular disease screening is only offered once every five years, you may need more frequent cholesterol testing if you’ve already been diagnosed with high cholesterol and take medications to keep it under control. In this case, Medicare Part B may cover the cost of more frequent cholesterol testing.;
What Is Being Tested
The test measures different things:
- The total amount of cholesterol in the blood
- The level of HDL-cholesterol
- The level of LDL-cholesterol
If you have a high level of LDL-cholesterol and triglycerides, then you have an increased risk of heart disease and stroke.
If your levels of cholesterol and lipids go down, then your risk goes down too.
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What Does This Shift Mean
Everyone wins with this change. People dont like to fast overnight. Some find it difficult to do, others are even harmed by it, such as those who faint from fasting and people with diabetes who take medications to lower blood sugar. The new recommendation means you can have your blood drawn when its most convenient for you, rather than early in the day.
Whats Behind The New Recommendation
This change has been coming for some time. It is driven by data from a dozen-plus studies that include more than 300,000 people whose cholesterol and other lipids were measured when they hadnt fasted. Their levels predicted cardiovascular risk, as well as, or possibly better than, fasting lipid levels.
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Other Heart Health Tests
In addition to our Cholesterol, Total screening, we also offer a Cardio Health Screen, commonly referred to as a lipid panel test,;which can detect your risk of heart attack, coronary heart disease, and stroke by checking your cholesterol, HDL, LDL, VLDL, and triglycerides. We also offer an hsCRP screening which serves a general marker for inflammation or infection. A high CRP may be a risk factor in heart disease and may also be a marker of other heart problems.
*It is solely your responsibility to promptly discuss all laboratory test results with a physician. Neither Sonora Quest Laboratories nor its Medical Director will provide interpretation, counseling, consulting, or care recommendations on the basis of any laboratory results provided to you.
Order Your Own Cholesterol, Total Test
Order a Cholesterol, Total test for $11 & pay for your test in 3 easy steps.;
- 1Select Tests
How To Get Tested
Cholesterol tests are usually done using blood that is drawn from a vein in your arm. This procedure is typically done in a doctors office, clinic, or medical lab. When the laboratory analyzes your blood, total cholesterol is frequently measured along with other types of cholesterol in a lipid panel test that is ordered by your doctor.
Total cholesterol can also be measured with rapid, point-of-care testing. This kind of test requires putting a drop of blood from your finger on a special test strip that is inserted into a small device, giving results within minutes. Point-of-care testing is used in some medical offices and clinics and may also be found at health fairs.
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How Much Does The Test Cost
There is no standard price for a total cholesterol test. The cost depends on where you take the test as well as coverage that may be provided by your insurance.
Costs of testing can include the office visit, the fee for the technician to draw your blood, and the actual laboratory analysis. If your doctor recommends a cholesterol test, these costs are typically covered by insurance, but, depending on your plan, you may be responsible for copays or a deductible. Your doctor and insurance plan can provide more specific information about your costs for cholesterol testing.
A point-of-care cholesterol test at pharmacies or health clinics may cost around $100 or less. This kind of test may be free at community health fairs or similar events.
There is a wide price range for at-home test kits. Many models include a small device to conduct the test and cost under $150, but more expensive options are available. Kits commonly come with extra test strips that allow you to check your cholesterol more than once.
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Healthy cholesterol levels are a key component of cardiovascular wellness. The American Heart Association recommends getting tested every four to six years beginning at age 20a blood lipid panel includes your total cholesterol, high-density lipoprotein , low-density lipoprotein , and triglycerides. If you have cardiovascular disease or elevated risk, you may need more frequent testing. After age 40, your doctor would recommend testing based on your calculated risk of having a heart attack or stroke.
These regular check-ins can guide your doctor’s assessment of whether you need to make lifestyle adjustments or take medication to keep your blood cholesterol within a healthy range.
At-home testing kits can be handy for people diagnosed with high cholesterol who may want to test their blood more frequently.
While home cholesterol testing should not be used as a replacement for the comprehensive diagnostics provided by your physician, it can be an addition to a proactive health regimen.
Here are the best at-home cholesterol test kits that you can use in-between visits with your doctor.
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High Density Lipoprotein Good Cholesterol
High levels linked to a reduced risk of heart and blood vessel disease. The higher your HDL level, the better.
- Greater than 40 mg/dL
This test may be measured any time of the day without fasting. However, if the test is drawn as part of a total lipid profile, it requires a 12-hour fast . For the most accurate results, wait at least two months after a heart attack, surgery, infection, injury or pregnancy to check HDL levels.
HDL is a lipoprotein found in the blood. It is called “good” cholesterol because it removes excess cholesterol from the blood and takes it to the liver. A high HDL level is related to lower risk of heart and blood vessel disease.
Can I Take The Test At Home
Two main types of at-home cholesterol tests are available:
- Test kits that have you take a blood sample from your finger and send it by mail to a lab.
- Test kits that include an at-home method for analyzing the blood sample from your finger. This may be a small electronic device or a test strip that changes color to indicate cholesterol levels.
At-home tests for total cholesterol may include other cholesterol measurements, such as HDL and LDL, that are part of a typical lipid panel.
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Who Orders My Blood Tests
Your doctor typically orders blood tests for you during a physical, checkup, or an appointment intended for a specific condition.
Blood testing is usually partially or fully covered by insurance. Ordering tests through your medical provider ensures that youre not paying too much. Your doctor can also advise you on how to choose testing facilities that are reliable, well-managed, or convenient for you.
Its possible to order your own blood tests without a doctor or even health insurance, but its not recommended. You may end up paying the full cost by not going through an insurance plan, which can be expensive.
And some blood testing facilities may not give you accurate results. One infamous case of this is Theranos, a Palo Alto, California, biotechnology firm shut down in 2018 when an investigation uncovered lies and fraud around the accuracy of its private blood testing technology.
Normal levels can also vary by age.
What To Think About
- Chylomicrons are another type of lipoprotein that are measured in a different test. Chylomicrons are in the blood and carry fat from your intestine to your liver. They carry triglycerides to your muscles for immediate use. Or they carry triglycerides to fat tissue for storage.
- Having a high cholesterol level increases your chances of having a heart attack. The higher your cholesterol, the greater your chances. An elevated total cholesterol level in younger people is particularly significant, since the narrowing of the coronary arteries usually takes many years to develop.
- Lifestyle changes may help lower blood cholesterol levels and increase HDL cholesterol. Some people have better responses to diet and lifestyle changes than do others. Lifestyle changes might include:
- Quitting smoking.
- Eating healthier by reducing saturated fats and cholesterol in the diet while increasing fibre and complex carbohydrate.
- Losing weight. An improvement may occur if you lose as little as 2.5 kg to 5 kg .
- Being active on most, preferably all, days of the week.
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