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A cholesterol test measures the amount of “good” and “bad” cholesterol and triglycerides, a type of fat, in your blood. The test is also called a lipid panel or lipid profile.

Your body needs cholesterol to function properly. However, too much cholesterol can lead to heart disease, stroke and atherosclerosis, a clogging or hardening of the arteries. A cholesterol test will help show your risk of building up fatty deposits, or plaques, in your arteries that can lead to narrowing and blockages.

Why is a cholesterol test important?

There usually aren’t signs or symptoms of high cholesterol levels, so a cholesterol test is necessary to detect these levels. High cholesterol levels often indicate you are at risk of heart disease.

Cholesterol testing is especially important if you:

  • Have a family history of high cholesterol or heart disease
  • Are overweight or obese
  • Eat a high-fat diet
  • Drink alcohol frequently
  • Smoke
  • Are physically inactive or lead a sedentary lifestyle
  • Have diabetes, kidney disease, polycystic ovary syndrome or an underactive thyroid gland

What should you expect with a cholesterol test?

A complete cholesterol test measures four types of lipids, or fats, in your blood:

  • Total cholesterol: The total amount of cholesterol in your blood.
  • Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol: Sometimes called “bad” cholesterol. Too much LDL cholesterol in your blood causes atherosclerosis, which reduces blood flow. This raises your risk of heart attack and stroke.
  • High-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol: Sometimes called “good” cholesterol. HDL cholesterol helps carry away LDL cholesterol from your blood, keeping it flowing more freely through your arteries.
  • Triglycerides: A type of fat in the blood. Your body converts any calories it doesn’t need into triglycerides, which are stored in your fat cells. People who are overweight, have diabetes, eat too many sweets, smoke, drink too much alcohol or who are physically inactive can have high triglyceride levels.

For the most accurate results, you will likely be required to fast before the test. Fasting usually means no food or liquids other than water for nine to 12 hours before the test. Ask your healthcare provider for more specific instructions.

How can your cholesterol level be reduced?

You can reduce cholesterol levels with lifestyle changes, such as eating more heart-healthy foods and foods with fiber, exercising and increasing your physical activity, losing weight, quitting smoking and drinking less alcohol.

If lifestyle changes don’t lower your cholesterol enough, your healthcare provider might recommend medication.

To have your cholesterol levels checked, contact the nearest CareNow® urgent care clinic. You can minimize your wait time with our Web Check-In®.

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