What Tests are Done to Check Cholesterol?
While cholesterol is necessary for keeping your body healthy, too much can be a precursor for serious health problems. Knowing your cholesterol level is important; regular checks let you know when you need to make lifestyle adjustments or add in medication to regulate your cholesterol. What tests are done to check cholesterol?
There are 2 kinds of cholesterol proteins: high-density lipoprotein (HDL) and low-density lipoprotein (LDL). Cholesterol is necessary to support cellular structure and assist in fat digestion, but each protein has its own purpose. LDL carries cholesterol to cells through the bloodstream and HDL reabsorbs cholesterol so that it can be cleared by the liver.
When your LDL (also known as bad cholesterol) is too high, it is not completely removed from the bloodstream, and begins to build up on your blood vessel walls. As this plaque builds up over time, it can cause the bloodstream to narrow. A blocked bloodstream may lead to chest pain, a heart attack or a stroke. Oftentimes high cholesterol will have no symptoms until a serious medical event occurs, so it’s important to get your levels checked every few years, or more often if you have risk factors such as heart disease, being overweight or sedentary or a family history of high cholesterol. The good news is that cholesterol screening is done through a simple blood panel.
Your doctor will order a blood draw called a lipid profile. This blood test will check for LDL levels, HDL levels, triglyceride levels (a fat found in the blood that can indicate increased risk for severe outcomes like a stroke or heart attack), and total cholesterol. Some people will be asked to fast before the test if they are taking certain medications, but many times a screening can be performed without a fasting period.
Your doctor will review your results and discuss your numbers with you. If your HDL is low or your LDL is high, your doctor will suggest lifestyle changes to improve and balance your numbers. Eating a variety of healthy foods, getting enough physical exercise, not smoking, maintaining a healthy weight and managing underlying health disorders (like diabetes or hypothyroidism) are all ways to manage high cholesterol. Your doctor may also prescribe medication based on your cholesterol numbers and risk factors.
The idea of high cholesterol may seem overwhelming, but the fact is it can be managed more easily than ever. Knowing your numbers is the first step, so be sure to keep up with regular cholesterol screenings.
Ready to get started? At Westgate Family Physicians, we offer in-house lab services for cholesterol testing, so getting on top of your cholesterol health couldn’t be easier. Call (864) 574-0070 to schedule an appointment today.