Lipid Panel Blood Test - What It Is and How to Get It

Key Takeaways

  • A lipid panel, also known as a lipid profile, is a blood test that measures the amount of lipid fat molecules in your blood.
  • Healthcare practitioners typically recommend that you get your first lipid panel blood test at the age of 45 if you are a man and at the age of 50 if you are a woman.
  • Doctors recommend you fast for 10-12 hours prior to the test. 
  • Your blood lipid levels are an important indication of whether your cholesterol levels are within the healthy range or too high. If they are too high, you are at greater risk of heart disease, heart attack, and stroke.

Did you know the average adult has around 50 billion fat cells, and that fat cells can survive for up to ten years? It sounds shocking, but before you throw away the ice cream in the freezer and swear off late night snacks, we have some great news - not all fat cells are bad. In fact, there are several types of fat, including lipids, that play important roles in your body.

There are three main types of lipid:

  • Triglycerides: This type makes around 96% of dietary lipids. They are found in milk, cheese, butter, fried foods, avocados, and certain meats. Your body uses triglycerides to produce fatty acids and provide your body with heat and energy.
  • Phospholipids: This type makes up less than 3% of lipids in the average diet. They are found in animal and plant foods such as meat, seafood, eggs, and seed oils. Your body needs phospholipids to help maintain healthy cells.
  • Sterols: This is the least common type of lipid, though cholesterol is the most well-known form of sterol. Your body contains only a small amount of cholesterol from foods such as animal fats and full-fat dairy foods. Cholesterol is important for synthesizing vitamin D, sex hormones, and bile salts, as well as maintaining healthy cell membranes.

Your blood lipid levels are an indicator of several important health factors, including your cholesterol levels, whether you’re at risk of heart disease, and much more. Below is a look at what a lipid panel blood test is, what it is used for, and how to interpret the results of this test.

What Is a Lipid Panel Blood Test?

A lipid panel, also known as a lipid profile, is a blood test that measures the amount of lipid fat molecules in your blood. This blood test consists of five different types of testing, these include:

  • Total cholesterol: This is a measure of your full cholesterol, which is a combination of LDL-C (low-density lipoprotein), HDL-C (high-density lipoprotein), and VLDL-C (very low-density lipoprotein).
  • Low-density lipoprotein: This form of cholesterol is often referred to as “bad cholesterol.” It can accumulate in your blood vessels. A build-up of LDL cholesterol increases your risk of coronary heart disease and atherosclerosis.
  • High-density lipoprotein: This form of cholesterol is often referred to as “good cholesterol.” HDL cholesterol helps to reduce the build-up of LDL cholesterol in your blood vessels.
  • Very low-density lipoprotein: This form of cholesterol is generally present in very small amounts when you take a fasting blood sample. This is because it comes from the food you have eaten most recently. If the amount of VLDL in your bloodstream increases, it may signify abnormal lipid metabolism.
  • Triglycerides: Unusually high triglyceride levels can lead to pancreatic inflammation, cardiovascular disease, and an increased risk of a heart attack.

When Should I Get a Lipid Panel Blood Test?

Healthcare practitioners typically recommend that you get your first lipid panel blood test at the age of 45 if you are a man and at the age of 50 if you are a woman. However, your healthcare provider may suggest you get tested earlier if you are a smoker or you suffer from or are at high risk of certain diseases such as:

  • Diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Pancreatitis
  • Hypothyroidism

Or if you have:

  • A family history of heart disease
  • High blood pressure (hypertension)
  • Obesity
  • High cholesterol

Where Can I Get a Lipid Panel Blood Test?

A lipid panel test can be performed in your doctor’s office or a hospital, or a clinic. It is usually performed by a nurse or a lab technician. Alternatively, you could have your blood cholesterol sample taken at home.

Mobile labs, like Getlabs, are becoming more and more popular. If you choose to use a home phlebotomy service, a nurse or certified lab technician will visit your home, collect a blood sample, and transport it to a local laboratory for testing. The results will then be delivered to your doctor.

What Should I Do Before My Lipid Panel Blood Test?

Typically, in preparation for your lipid panel blood test, your doctor will ask you to fast for 10-12 hours prior to the test. This means consuming no food or liquids other than water. This is so that you get the most accurate results from your test. If you have questions about fasting before a blood test, we covered the topic more in-depth here.

If you do not fast beforehand, your LDL levels may be affected by what you eat.

What Should I Do During My Lipid Panel Blood Test?

Here’s what to expect from your home lipid panel blood test:

  1. When your specialist arrives, they will introduce themselves and show you their official ID.
  2. After confirming your identification, they will ask you a few preliminary questions.
  3. They will make sure you are comfortable either sitting or lying down before your test.
  4. Next, they will check your chosen arm and select the most appropriate vein and collection device.
  5. After collecting your sample, they will ask you to apply pressure to the puncture site momentarily.
  6. Once they have checked the puncture site for bleeding, they will apply a bandage.

The entire procedure usually takes less than five minutes.

There is very little risk to having a lipid panel blood test. You may notice mild tenderness or slight bruising at the needle site, but this will quickly resolve. If you notice any numbness or tingling in your arm or you feel nauseous or dizzy during your blood draw, you should alert your specialist straight away.

How Long Do I Have to Wait for My Lipid Panel Blood Test Results?

Once your blood sample has been taken to the lab for testing, your doctor should receive the results within 24-48 hours. Your doctor will contact you with your results by phone or through your laboratory's patient portal shortly after they have received them.

What Are Considered Normal Lipid Panel Results?

Once you’ve received your test results, you will need to know what the numbers mean. Here’s an explanation for each of the five lab tests:

Total Cholesterol

  • Low: 200 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) or less
  • Borderline: 201-240 mg/dL
  • High: More than 240 mg/dL

Low-density Lipoprotein

  • Ideal range: 100 mg/dL or less
  • Good: 100-129 mg/dL
  • Borderline high: 130-159
  • High: 160-189 mg/dL
  • Very high: 190 mg/dL or more

High-density Lipoprotein

  • Ideal: 60 mg/dL or higher
  • Good: 40-59 mg/dL
  • Low: 40 mg/dL or less

Triglycerides

  • Good: 150 mg/dL or less
  • High: 151-200 mg/dL
  • Very high: more than 200 mg/dL

After assessing the complete results of your lipid blood panel, your doctor will consider your risk factors and set a personal LDL goal for you to strive for.

If you are at risk of or already suffer from heart disease, your LDL goal could be as low as 70 mg/dL if your risk for cardiovascular disease is very high. If your risk of heart disease is moderate, a target of below 160 mg/dL should be adequate.

To help you attain these goals, your healthcare provider may prescribe statins to reduce your cholesterol and high levels of triglycerides and suggest some lifestyle changes.

Get a Lipid Panel Blood Test At-home with Getlabs

Your blood lipid levels are an important indication of whether your cholesterol levels are within the healthy range or too high. If they are too high, you are at a greater risk of heart disease, heart attack, and stroke. A lipid panel blood test will measure your lipid level and tell your doctor whether you need to set new goals for your cholesterol and triglyceride levels.

If you would prefer to have your blood sample taken at home, rather than having to make a visit to the hospital or your doctor’s office, Getlabs provides a convenient, safe, and confidential service in the comfort of your home. If you want to learn more about Getlabs, visit www.getlabs.com/faq to learn more.

Book an Appointment

Getlabs delivers healthcare to you. Our specialists come to you to collect your labs and deliver them to Labcorp and Quest for testing. We’re available same-day, nationwide.

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