Upon scheduling your cholesterol screening appointment with once of our physicians, he or she may ask that you don’t eat or drink anything after midnight the night before the appointment. The reason for this is so that your doctor can order a fasting lipid panel. A lipid panel is a test that measures the fats or lipids in your blood. These are total cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and triglycerides.
There is some controversy over whether the test results are more accurate if you have fasted. New studies have shown that there isn’t a significant difference in cholesterol test results, but there could be higher triglyceride levels after having eaten. Both high cholesterol and high triglyceride levels could be indicators of a risk for heart disease.
One of the issues with not having fasted before your blood is drawn for a lipid panel is that your doctor, or the lab, will delay the test until such time that you can return after having fasted. This is sometimes counterproductive because of a person’s busy schedule. The patient may not have the time to schedule another test, or may just not bother if it is inconvenient.
For this reason, some health care professionals will go forward with the testing if the patient hasn’t fasted. The test results will still be a good indicator of lipid levels. Either way, it is very important to have this test performed so that your doctor can take immediate action if he feels you are at risk for cardiovascular disease.
Be Proactive with Your Health Care
The take-away from this information is that you, as the patient, need to be proactive with your preventative care. When you make an appointment for a physical, always ask if you will need to fast before arriving at the office or lab, and for how long. If you have not fasted, or just forgot, tell your provider before your blood is drawn. That way, he can be cognizant of how the test results might be adjusted to reflect a more accurate reading, especially for your triglyceride levels.
It is important that you schedule a wellness visit or physical once a year, or as recommended by your doctor and/or medical insurance provider. This visit should include a lipid panel test, requiring a blood draw to check cholesterol levels and triglycerides.