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Lipids are fats and fat-like substances that are essential as an energy source and an important part of our cellular makeup. The lipid panel measures two types of lipids—cholesterol and triglycerides—both of which are necessary for proper bodily function. Cholesterol is a waxy, fatty substance found in certain foods and in the bloodstream. A small amount of cholesterol is required, but excess cholesterol can cause hard deposits known as plaque in the arteries. Plaque can restrict blood flow to the heart and cause the arteries to harden which eventually leads to heart disease. Triglycerides are fat in the blood and are important for providing energy for the body; however, high levels of triglycerides can be harmful.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death among men and women in the US and it is preventable. The Lipid Panel includes several cholesterol tests used to assess one’s risk for cardiovascular disease, including heart attack and stroke. Regular lipid testing is recommended as part of routine blood work for all adults. It is important to monitor lipid levels throughout your life and make lifestyle adjustments to maintain your heart health.
If results of a lipid panel are out of range, a doctor will evaluate the results along with personal risk factors (e.g., genetics, age, weight, sex, exercise levels, etc.) to develop a treatment plan. Treatment may include diet and lifestyle changes and/or drug therapy.
Lipid Panel Test Components
The Lipid Panel includes the following cholesterol tests for a comprehensive overview of your heart health:
- Total cholesterol test: High cholesterol can increase one’s risk of heart disease, heart attack and stroke. Cholesterol can be managed through a low-cholesterol diet, increased exercise and quitting smoking. Medication may also be prescribed.
- HDL cholesterol test: HDL (High Density Lipoprotein) is considered “good cholesterol” as it removes bad cholesterol from tissues and the bloodstream and transports it to the liver for disposal. High levels of HDL can lower one’s risk of developing heart disease.
- LDL cholesterol test: LDL (Low Density Lipoprotein) is the “bad cholesterol.” Elevated levels of LDL cholesterol can cause blockages and hardening of the arteries.
- Triglycerides test: High levels of triglycerides raise one’s risk of developing heart disease, but diet and exercise are known to lower triglyceride levels.
- VLDL test: VLDL (Very Low Density Lipoprotein) cholesterol contains the highest amount of triglyceride. It’s considered “bad cholesterol” because a high level can cause the build up of cholesterol in one’s arteries and increase the risk of stroke and heart disease.
Why Do I Need It?
High cholesterol is a proven risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Knowing your cholesterol level and making necessary lifestyle and dietary changes to lower high cholesterol can prevent or reverse cardiovascular disease.
For the most accurate test results, fasting is recommended at least eight hours prior to testing.