LDL test: purpose, procedure and risks

What is an LDL test?

LDL means low density lipoproteins, a type of cholesterol found in your body. LDL is often referred to as bad cholesterol. This is because an excessive amount of LDL causes an accumulation of cholesterol in the arteries, which can lead to heart attacks and strokes.

If you have high levels of good cholesterol, called high-density lipoproteins (HDL), you can lower your risk of developing heart disease. HDL helps carry LDL cholesterol to your liver to break down and, therefore, helps prevent damage to your heart.

Your doctor may order an LDL test as part of a routine test to determine your risk of heart disease and decide if any treatment is necessary.

When to be tested

If you are 20 or older and have not been diagnosed with heart disease, the American Heart Association recommends that you check your cholesterol levels every four to six years. Usually, high cholesterol does not cause any visible symptoms, so you may not even know you have it without testing.

If you have risk factors for developing heart disease, you may need to have a test more often. You are more likely to be at risk for heart disease if:

  • have a family history of heart disease

  • Smoking cigarettes

  • they are obese, which means that you have a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or more

  • have low levels of HDL (good cholesterol)

  • have hypertension (or high blood pressure) or are receiving treatment for hypertension

  • have diabetes

Your doctor may also order an LDL test if you are already receiving treatment for high cholesterol. In this case, the test is used to determine whether changes in lifestyle, such as diet and exercise, or medications reduce cholesterol successfully.

Children usually do not need to be tested to determine LDL levels. However, children who are at higher risk, such as those who are obese or have diabetes or hypertension, should have their first LDL test between 2 and 10 years.

Why is an LDL test necessary?

High cholesterol usually does not cause any symptoms, so it is necessary to review it routinely. High cholesterol increases your chances of having certain medical conditions, some of which are life-threatening.

High cholesterol increases your risk of:

  • coronary heart disease

  • Atherosclerosis, which is a buildup of plaque in the arteries.

  • angina, or chest pain

  • heart attack

  • career

  • carotid artery disease

  • Peripheral arterial disease

Preparing for the test

You should not eat or drink during the 10 hours before the test, since food and drinks can temporarily change blood cholesterol levels. However, it is good to have water. You may want to schedule your exam first thing in the morning so you do not have to fast during the day.

Be sure to tell your doctor if you are taking over-the-counter medications, prescription medications or herbal supplements. Certain medications can affect your LDL levels, and your doctor may ask you to stop taking medications or change your dose before your test.

What happens during the test?

An LDL test only requires a simple blood sample. This can also be called a venous puncture or blood draw. The technician will begin by cleaning the area where the blood will be extracted with an antiseptic. Usually, blood is drawn from a vein in the elbow or in the back of the hand.

Next, the technician will tie an elastic band around the upper arm. This causes the blood to accumulate in the vein. Then a sterile needle will be inserted into your vein and blood will be drawn into a tube. You may feel mild to moderate pain that is similar to a stinging or burning sensation. In general, you can reduce this pain by relaxing your arm while the blood is drawn. The technician will remove the elastic band while the blood is drawn.

When they finish drawing blood, a bandage will be applied to the wound. You must apply pressure on the wound for several minutes to help stop bleeding and avoid bruising. Your blood will be sent to a medical laboratory to check your LDL levels.

Risks of LDL tests

The possibility of experiencing problems due to an LDL blood test is low. However, as with any medical procedure that breaks the skin, the possible risks include:

  • Multiple puncture wounds due to problems finding a vein

  • excessive bleeding

  • feeling faint or faint

  • Bruising or an accumulation of blood under the skin.

  • infection

Who should not be tested for LDL

Children under 2 years of age are too young to be tested for LDL. In addition, people who have had an acute illness or a stressful situation, such as surgery or a heart attack, should wait six weeks before the LDL test. Illness and acute stress can cause LDL levels to temporarily decrease.

New mothers must wait six weeks after giving birth before their LDL levels are tested, since pregnancy temporarily raises their LDL cholesterol levels.

Reference: https: //www.healthline.com/health/ldl-test


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