Cholesterol tests are very important to determine how likely you are to develop a heart disease or suffer from a heart attack due to blockage in your arteries. The test gives an overview of the cholesterol level in your blood, as well as the quantity of good cholesterol HDL and bad cholesterol LDL in your blood. If your cholesterol test shows that you have too high blood cholesterol level, the doctor will recommend major lifestyle changes. The same goes with too low levels of cholesterol in the body. If the test results are absolutely unpredicted, the doctor might ask you to repeat the test.
This is because the results of your lipid or cholesterol test keep on changing constantly. The results of your current cholesterol test may hugely differ from that of the previous or the next one. This change is but normal. However, there are a number of factors that actually affect your cholesterol test results.
What is Cholesterol and How It Works?
Before you delve deep into the factors that affect the cholesterol test results, it is important that you understand what cholesterol is and how it works. Cholesterol is a substance that is waxy and soft and is produced by the liver for processing the fat that we consume, inside the body. There are two types of cholesterol, the HDL or high density lipoprotein that is good for the body and it helps in removing cholesterol and fat from the body and the LDL or low density lipoprotein, commonly called the bad cholesterol that actually causes plaque build-up.
It is this bad cholesterol that can cause plaque build-up in the arteries and block the blood passage, leading to various possible coronary heart diseases. The cholesterol test, therefore, is very important in determining your risk of developing the coronary heart diseases.
Factors that Affect Cholesterol Tests
Now that you have known about what cholesterol is and how it works, it is now time to know the factors that affect your cholesterol tests. Since the varying results can be misleading, it is crucial that you know about the factors and thereby, get an accurate overview of your condition.
Diet and Fasting:
What you eat in general and especially, prior to your cholesterol test has the maximum impact on your test results. If you consume highly fatty food that contains a high amount of saturated fat, it will impact your blood cholesterol levels hugely. The total cholesterol level or the average and the LDL cholesterol levels will be high after a fatty diet. Usually eggs, red meat and fatty fried foods are the culprits in this case.
Not eating anything 12 hours prior to the test is the best way to avoid this sudden rise of the total cholesterol and LDL levels in your blood. However, on the other hand, this does not really impact your HDL levels. Fasting for 9 to 12 hours prior to the cholesterol tests will help you to avoid LDL and triglyceride results that are misleading.
Since diet and fasting, in fact what you drink (tea, coffee etc. and not just alcohol) have a direct impact on your cholesterol readings, if you fail to fast for 9 to 12 hours before the test, only the HDL and total cholesterol readings would be valuable. For LDL, you would require to take the test again.
Health Conditions That Can Affect Cholesterol Tests:
If you are suffering from some inflammation or infection, it will affect your cholesterol test results. These can cause your HDL and total cholesterol levels to decrease. Not just physical conditions, but mental health conditions can also affect your blood cholesterol levels. Too much of stress can impact your cholesterol test readings and this can be misleading. About 10% decrease can occur in your HDL reading in the test, after rigorous exercising. So, it is recommended that you do not engage yourself in any sort of unusually vigorous exercise before taking this test.
If you have had a surgery recently, that too will have an impact on your cholesterol level. If you have had a heart attack or stroke recently or due to the surgery, your cholesterol test readings will be lowered. So, you must wait for at least 3 months after the surgery or stroke or heart attack before taking the test. The onset of a chronic disease like cancer can lower your blood cholesterol readings. In fact, sudden decrease in your total cholesterol levels is a sign that there might be malignancy in the body.
Alcohol & Its Effect on Cholesterol Levels:
Long term and short term, both sorts of alcohol drinking habit can have an impact on your cholesterol levels. So, to avoid sudden changes and impact on your cholesterol test readings, it is important that you do not drink at least for 24 hours before the test.
Also, long term drinking habits can lower your HDL or good cholesterol levels in the blood. Thereby, it can increase your risk of heart attack or other coronary diseases. So, if you drink and your cholesterol test results show a low HDL level, discuss with your doctors about ways to control your drinking habits.
Drugs That Can Affect Cholesterol Levels:
Various drugs can have an impact on the cholesterol test readings. If you are taking hormonal medicines or steroid drugs, it will drastically increase your cholesterol level readings. Usually these are false and can be misleading. Some of these medicines and drugs are anabolic steroids, phenytoin, adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH), sulfonamides, birth control pills, beta-adrenergic blocking agents (beta-blockers), corticosteroids, vitamin D and thiazide diuretics.
Ideal Cholesterol Test Results
As you have known about the factors that control and affect your cholesterol test readings, you need to know the ideal levels of HDL, LDL and total cholesterol in the blood. These are –
- Total Cholesterol: 6.9%
- HDL (High Density Lipoprotein): 12.4%
- LDL (Low Density Lipoprotein): 9.5%.
Anything higher or lower than this will indicate high or low cholesterol levels and would require significant lifestyle changes. You should consult with your doctor regarding your cholesterol test results to get the correct picture of your health.
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