How Is Cholesterol Tested
Cholesterol is measured using a blood test. A healthcare provider will draw your blood using a needle and collect it in a vial. This typically takes place at your doctors office or at a lab where the blood is then analyzed.
The test only takes a couple of minutes and is relatively painless. However, you might have some soreness or bruising on your arm around the injection site.
Your results will likely be available in a few days or within a couple of weeks.
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Why Is Fasting Required Before Blood Tests
Fasting before a blood test helps improve the accuracy and reliability of the test. Accurate test results are a critical component of diagnosing various health conditions and monitoring the effectiveness of treatment plans.;
Your diet contains a range of nutrients, including carbohydrates, proteins, fats, minerals and vitamins. When you eat and drink normally, those nutrients are broken down and absorbed into your bloodstream. This can impact the levels of those substances in the blood and skew lab test results.
For example, certain methods of diabetes testing measure the patients baseline blood sugar levels after a period of fasting. Eating directly before the test will cause the patients blood sugar to spike, leading to an inaccurate test result. The patient could be misdiagnosed with prediabetes or diabetes, unless their doctor recommends that they complete a second test.
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If I Need A Fasting Blood Test Am I Allowed To Eat Or Drink Anything
Some tests let you have a few sips of water. However, other tests dont even allow water. You should avoid coffee and gum before a fasting lab test because both substances affect your digestive system and can change the results of your test. You should also avoid alcohol, smoking and exercise.
If you take medications, continue taking them as normal unless your doctor says otherwise. If you take vitamin/mineral supplements, ask your doctor whether you should continue to take those.
When Will I Get The Test Results
Most fasting lab results are available for your doctor in about 24 hours. However, some tests may take longer to complete. The lab will provide a report to your doctor, and your doctor will use the report to help with next steps in your diagnosis and treatment.
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What If I Accidentally Eat Or Drink Before My Blood Test
If you have been instructed to fast before your blood test and you accidentally eat or drink something during the fasting window, it is important to notify your healthcare provider or the person drawing your blood. If you dont, your results could be incorrectly interpreted.
It may be possible for your healthcare provider to interpret the non-fasted test results. Most likely, they will instruct you to reschedule the blood test at a time when you will be able to successfully complete the fast before the test.
Your physician will let you know the steps you need to take before your blood test, including whether or not fasting is required and for how long. By following all testing instructions and best practices , you can ensure a smooth testing process and the most accurate results.
Can I Drink Water Before A Blood Test
Yes, you can drink water while fasting before a blood testin fact, drinking plenty of water can help ensure that you receive accurate test results. Dehydration can affect certain blood tests such as cholesterol, electrolyte and BUN tests. Be sure to stay hydrated before your test by drinking the recommended amount of water for your weight and activity level.
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What Do These Numbers Even Mean
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.
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.
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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The History Behind Fasting Cholesterol Tests
When doctors test for cholesterol, we almost always order a group of tests called a lipid panel . This panel typically includes four separate measures:
- Total cholesterol concentration.
- Low-density lipoprotein* cholesterol, often called the bad cholesterol. The amount of LDL in your blood strongly predicts your risk of cardiovascular disease, as higher levels are associated with development of plaque in the arteries.
- High-density lipoprotein cholesterol, often called good cholesterol because higher levels protect against heart disease.
- Triglycerides . High levels of triglycerides are also associated with vascular disease, although this relationship isnt as well defined.
*Lipoproteins are the packages that transport cholesterol in the bloodstream.
Lipids have traditionally been drawn after a fast for two main reasons. The first was to minimize variation, since eating can affect some lipid levels. The second was to produce a better calculation of LDL-cholesterol, which is often derived from an equation thought to provide highly distorted results after eating. However, more recent studies have largely negated these concerns.
Can Eating Change A Cholesterol Test
Cholesterol testing is recommended every five years for people over the age of 20, MayoClinic.com explains. Eating in the hours before a cholesterol test may interfere with the results, but it may not make a significant difference. Before taking a cholesterol test, talk to a doctor to discuss any steps needed to prepare.
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Common Fasting Blood Tests
Examples of blood tests that may require you to;fast include:
- a fasting blood glucose test you may be asked to fast for 8 to 10 hours before the test
- an iron blood test you may be asked to fast for 12 hours before the test
For more information about a wider range of blood tests, go to Lab Tests Online.
Getting Ready For Your Test
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Effects Of Eating Within 12 Hours
For some cholesterol tests, such as those that measure HDL and LDL cholesterol, people are advised to abstain from all food and beverages, except for water, for nine to 12 hours. Eating during this period can lead to the test underestimating LDL and HDL levels. It can also cause elevated measurements of triglycerides, another lipid found in the blood. Water, however, can be consumed in the time before the test without affecting the test’s accuracy.
What Types Of Blood Tests Require Fasting
Glucose testing that checks blood-sugar levels and tests that determine your cholesterol, triglycerides, and high-density lipoprotein levels usually require fasting. Other lab tests may require fasting, which is why you should ask your doctor. If you think fasting might be a problem, schedule your appointment for the early morning and bring a snack for after the appointment.;
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An End To The Dreaded Overnight Fast
Guidelines for lipid panels have evolved over the past decade, supported by evidence from studies involving hundreds of thousands of people. Most recommendations now support non-fasting cholesterol tests for routine testing.
Some fasting lipids tests will remain necessary, especially in people with very high triglycerides. And some people will still need to fast for blood sugar levels, although an alternative test for diabetes has replaced much of this testing. But for most, including those having routine cholesterol tests to weigh cardiovascular risk and for those taking drug therapy, this news is good news.
So ask your doctor if you really need to skip breakfast before your next blood draw. Traditions die hard, but both science and convenience may ultimately steer this one to its end. This is one change doctors and patients should celebrate together.
Does Drinking Water Affect Cholesterol Test
If a healthcare professional has asked a person to fast, they should not consume anything other than water the night before a cholesterol test. Fasting means that a person can only consume water for the hours before their test. If a person does not need to fast, they should be able to eat and drink normally.
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Effects Of Eating After 12 Hours
It can take up to 70 hours for a meal to be completely digested. But it is unlikely that foods eaten more than 12 hours before the test will have a significant effect on the results of a cholesterol test, Go Ask Alice explains. However, a sustained pattern of eating foods high in cholesterol, trans fats and saturated fats will lead to poor results on cholesterol tests.
Can I Drink Coffee / Alcohol / Juice / Soda / Tea While Fasting
No. Any beverage other than water should not be consumed before a blood test, unless approved by your healthcare provider. Alcohol, soda, and juice contain high quantities of sugar, which can interfere with many common test results.;
Black coffee, tea, and other caffeinated beverages are diuretics, which can have a dehydrating effect and cause test results to be inaccurate. For best results, avoid drinking all non-water beverages for the recommended amount of time before your test.
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The Dos And Donts Of Fasting Before Routine Bloodwork
If you have ever visited a primary care provider, then you have likely been asked to fast before getting routine bloodwork. To learn more, we asked an expert about what you can and cannot do while fasting.
Some of those blood tests, in either screening for chronic conditions or in monitoring of your chronic conditions, may be affected by some of the nutrients that are in food or drink, said Jason McKnight, MD, MS, family medicine physician at Texas A&M Health Family Care and clinical assistant professor at the Texas A&M College of Medicine.
McKnight also mentioned the food or drinks you consume the day or night before a blood test does not impact your test results, unlike what you eat or drink the morning of your test.
Its recommended that you avoid coffee and other liquids during your fast, McKnight said. You never know what kind of nutrient value or additives are in those liquids, so its best to just stick with sips of water, unless otherwise cleared by your physician or provider.
On a similar note, he says to avoid vitamins and snacks, but not to stop any prescribed medications, unless otherwise instructed by your provider. If you have any questions about whether you need to fast and for how long, ask your health care provider the day before your bloodwork.
For Vital Record, this is Mary Leigh Meyer.
Mary Leigh Meyer
What Is The Blood Cholesterol Test
A blood cholesterol test usually measures 3 different kinds of lipids in the blood, allof which are related to a fatlike substance called cholesterol. Mostof the cholesterol in your blood is made by your liver from the fats,carbohydrates, and proteins you eat. You also get cholesterol by eatinganimal products such as meat, eggs, and dairy products.
The 3 kinds of lipids measured in a lipid panel are:
- LDL cholesterol
- HDL cholesterol
The lipid panel also measures total cholesterol, which is the sum of all the types of cholesterol in your blood.
Another name for this test is lipid profile.
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How To Prep For This Test
If you dont have to fast, doctors still advise steering clear of fatty foods the night before the test. Both fasters and nonfasters should skip alcohol for at least 24 hours beforehand.
Fasting Before A Blood Test: Drinking Coffee Eating And More
Certain blood tests require fasting beforehand. If your healthcare provider has instructed you to fast before your upcoming test, it means that you should not eat or drink anything for the specified amount of time before having your blood drawn.
Understanding why fasting is important and how to properly fast before a blood test can be helpful for eliminating pre-test anxiety and simplifying the testing process. Below, learn how to fast for a blood test correctly to help make sure that your test results are accurate.;
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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.
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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How Should I Prepare For My Cholesterol Test
If you arent already taking cholesterol medications, it may not be necessary to fast.
Depending on your situation, your doctor might recommend drinking only water and avoiding food, other drinks, and certain medications in order to make sure your results are accurate.
What else should you avoid? Alcohol. Drinking within 24 hours before your test can affect your triglyceride levels.
How To Read Your Results
Your blood will likely be checked using a test called a total lipid profile. To understand your cholesterol test results, youll need to know the different types of cholesterol that the test measures and whats considered normal, potentially risky, and high.
Heres a breakdown of each type. Keep in mind that people who have conditions such as diabetes may need to aim for even lower numbers.
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What Should You Not Eat The Day Before A Blood Test
What should you not eat the day before a blood test? Blood glucose tests are either random or fasting tests. For a fasting blood glucose test, you cant eat or drink anything but water for eight hours before your test. You may want to schedule a fasting glucose test first thing in the morning so you dont have to fast during the day.
What should you not eat the night before blood work?;Fasting before a blood draw means you dont eat or drink anything except water. Dont wait until the day of your blood draw to ask if you should fast. That could cause your appointment to be rescheduled. If at any point youre unsure if fasting is required, contact your doctor.
Does what you eat the day before affect blood work?;McKnight also mentioned the food or drinks you consume the day or night before a blood test does not impact your test results, unlike what you eat or drink the morning of your test. Its recommended that you avoid coffee and other liquids during your fast, McKnight said.
What can you not eat 24 hours before blood work?;To ensure accurate results, people are asked not to eat anything on the morning of the test. Some people may take iron supplements or multivitamin tablets that contain iron. These can also affect results. If a person regularly takes these supplements, they should not take them for 24 hours before the iron blood test.