LDL Cholesterol Test

Other names: Low-Density Lipoprotein Cholesterol; LDL-C; LDL; ’Bad’ Cholesterol

LDL (low density lipoprotein) is commonly known as ’bad’ cholesterol; LDL carries cholesterol around the body in the blood. It is called bad cholesterol because it deposits the excess cholesterol on the walls of the arteries; this can cause them to become blocked, which can contribute to heart disease and strokes. In contrast, HDL (high density lipoprotein), known as ’good’ cholesterol, carries excess cholesterol to the liver so that it can be excreted.

When is the test used?

The LDL test is used as part of a series of tests to determine an individual’s risk of developing heart disease. The test results can be used to determine treatment pathways and will give an accurate prediction of whether or not a patient is likely to develop heart problems in the future.

The test may be ordered as a routine health screening test or when a doctor suspects that a person is at risk of developing heart disease; risk factors include:

  • Family history of heart disease
  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • Poor diet (high in ’bad’ cholesterol)
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • High blood pressure

An LDL test may be ordered of a patient has a high total cholesterol level; this will determine the proportion of LDL in the total cholesterol.

How is the test done?

The test is done by collecting a sample of blood from a vein in the arm (usually on the inside of the elbow); a needle is inserted into the vein and the blood is drawn out and collected in a syringe. When the doctor or nurse has an adequate sample, the blood will be bottled, labelled with the patient’s name and sent off to the laboratory for testing.

In most cases, the patient will be asked to fast for a period of 12 hours before the test (this usually takes place in the morning so the patient fasts overnight).

What do the test results show?

If levels of LDL are high, this indicates that the individual has a high risk of developing heart disease. If the levels are high, the patient may be given treatment or advised to change their lifestyle to try and bring the level down; the test may then be repeated to see if the changes or treatment are working.

If levels are normal or low, this means that the patient does not have a high risk of developing heart disease.

Specific Blood Tests

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