Cholesterol Test

Other names: Total Cholesterol; Blood Cholesterol

Cholesterol is an essential substance, which is used to form cell membranes for all tissues and organs in the body. Cholesterol is also used to produce hormones and bile acids, which are used during the digestive process.

A small amount of cholesterol travels in the bloodstream in lipoproteins, which are complex particles. The lipoproteins carry two forms of cholesterol, LDL (low density lipoprotein, also known as bad cholesterol) and HDL (high density lipoprotein); HDL helps to remove excess cholesterol away so that it can be excreted from the body, while LDL deposits cholesterol inside the body’s tissues and organs.

Why is the test used?

The test is used as part of a number of tests which may be carried out to assess a patient’s risk of developing cardiovascular or coronary heart disease.

The test may be used on a patient who already has heart disease or on patients who have early symptoms of heart disease or have risk factors which may increase their chances of developing heart disease. Possible risk factors include:

  • High blood pressure
  • Obesity
  • Family history of heart disease
  • Diabetes mellitus
  • Poor diet (high in LDL)
  • Smoking
  • Sedentary lifestyle

Cholesterol testing may also be used to monitor an individual’s progress if they have made significant changes to their lifestyle or started a course of treatment.

How is the test done?

The test is done by collecting and analysing a sample of blood; the sample is usually taken from a vein in the arm but it may also be taken from the finger. A needle is inserted into the vein and the blood is collected in a syringe. Once the sample has been collected, it will be bottled, labelled with the patient’s name and sent away for analysis.

What do the test results show?

The test results will be considered along with the individual’s medical history and general health; high levels of total cholesterol and high levels of LDL may indicate that a person has a high risk of developing heart disease.

If a patient has been taking treatment to lower their cholesterol, they will be tested on a regular basis to monitor the efficacy of the treatment; the target levels for total cholesterol are lower than 4mmol/L.

Levels of cholesterol may be affected by illness, taking certain medications and pregnancy.

Specific Blood Tests

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