Cholesterol Testing and Cardiac Health Overview
Reviewed By: Dr. Kurt Kloss, MD
Last Reviewed Date: Feb 14, 2019
Last Modified Date: Feb 14, 2019
Published Date: Jul 29, 2017
Get Your Cholesterol Tested and Maintain a Healthy Heart
High cholesterol is a major controllable risk factor for heart disease, including coronary heart disease and heart attack. The primary reason it creates this risk is that too much blood cholesterol can, over the long term, lead to atherosclerosis, which is an accumulation of cholesterol and other substances – called plaque – inside blood vessels. This causes the blood vessels to narrow and harden, restricting blood flow and making them prone to becoming blocked by blood clots. What all that means is that a cholesterol test is one of the more important medical tests in helping to maintain a healthy heart. Here we'll answer some of the questions people commonly have about cholesterol tests and other cardiac tests. View sample cardiac test results with lab variations, ranges and explanations.
How do I get my cholesterol checked?
Blood tests to check your cholesterol level involve having a sample of your blood analyzed by a lab. This can be done via your healthcare provider, who can take your blood and ship it to a lab for analysis, or you can order your own tests from Health Testing Centers, and go directly to the lab for testing. This option tends to be a faster, more affordable one, since it eliminates the expense of an office visit for a simple blood draw, and since results are delivered directly to you, waiting time for those results is reduced.
What is a heart screening test?
Heart screening tests are typically used to evaluate a person's heart health and function and/or their personal risk factors for developing heart disease. Goals of screening may be to identify risk factors that can be addressed for reduced risk, detect heart disease in its earliest, most treatable stages, or to monitor the effectiveness of medical treatments and/or cardiac risk-reduction strategies. Examples of cardiac tests used for these purposes include:
- Cholesterol blood test – These blood tests measure a person's total cholesterol level. High total cholesterol indicates heart disease risk.
- Lipids panel – Also a blood test, a lipid panel or profile also tests cholesterol levels, but in greater detail, measuring total cholesterol levels, as well as levels of high density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C), low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C), and triglycerides. High levels of LDL-C and triglycerides and/or low levels of HDL-C are risk factors for heart disease.
- Lipoprotein(a) test – This blood test measures levels of Lipoprotein (a) in the blood, a particle in the blood that carries proteins, fats and cholesterol. High levels indicate increased cardiac risk.
- C-reactive protein test – This blood test measures the amount of C-reactive protein in the blood, a substance related to inflammation. High levels of this protein can indicate the presence of atherosclerosis.
- Homocysteine test – This test measures levels of an amino acid called homocysteine in the blood. High levels have been associated with elevated risk of cardiovascular disease.
- Apolipoprotein B (Apo-B) test – Measures levels of Apo-B in the blood. High levels of this protein are a factor in the development of atherosclerosis.
Other screening tools used to evaluate a person's level of risk, heart health and other cardiovascular health factors include blood pressure checks, body weight and waist circumference measurement, blood glucose testing, evaluation of lifestyle factors and an examination of any family history of heart disease.
How do you test for heart failure?
Heart failure is a condition in which the heart becomes weakened and is unable to pump blood through the body efficiently. This most often occurs as a side-effect of diseases that damage the heart, such as coronary heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, kidney disease or thyroid disease.
Tests for heart failure may include any or all of the cardiac tests and screening measures listed above, as well as screening tests for prediabetes, diabetes, kidney disease or thyroid disease to evaluate whether a person suffers from diseases that can cause heart failure. Diagnostic tests that look for signs of the condition are also commonly used in diagnosing heart failure, including:
- Stress tests to evaluate heart function
- Diagnostic imaging tests, such as cardiac MRI, coronary angiography, echocardiography or cardiac catheterization, among others to look for signs of heart failure
- B-type natriuretic peptide (BNP) blood test. This test checks the level of a hormone called BNP in the blood, which rises with heart failure
How long do I fast for cholesterol test?
Eating before your blood is drawn for a cholesterol test can lead to inaccurate test results. For this reason, you can expect to be asked to consume nothing but water for 12 to 14 hours before the testing appointment.
What do the results of a cholesterol test mean?
Cholesterol blood test results present you with your personal cholesterol levels, which help determine your risk for heart disease. Your cholesterol numbers, expressed as milligrams of cholesterol per deciliter of blood (mg/dL) will fall into one of three categories used to classify that risk. For adults these are:
- Healthy cholesterol levels – Total cholesterol is below 170 mg/dL
- Borderline high – Total cholesterol is between 200 and 239 mg/dL
- High risk – Total cholesterol is at or above 240 mg/dL
Levels in children and teens are classified as follows:
- Healthy levels – Total cholesterol below 170 mg/dL
- Borderline high – Total cholesterol between 170 and 199 mg/dL
- High risk – Total cholesterol is at or above 200 mg/dL
Further testing to determine the causes of elevated cholesterol levels is generally the next step for those who have a borderline high or high cholesterol levels. Treatment is also typically recommended, with the goal of bringing blood cholesterol levels down in order to reduce cardiac risk. Treatment often includes cholesterol lowering drugs and lifestyle changes, including dietary changes, exercise, weight maintenance and, when applicable, addressing lifestyle factors that can contribute to high cholesterol levels, such as smoking or excessive alcohol use.
Featured Tests And Packages
Includes a lipid panel, CRP-hs, Homocysteine and Low-Density Lipoprotein (Direct) tests to evaluate heart disease risk.
Lipid panel, CRP-hs, homocysteine, NMR LipoProfile (LabCorp) OR Cardio IQ test (Quest Diagnostics), Lipoprotein (a), Apolipoprotein B, and CoQ10 for an assesment of cardiac risk.
If you take a statin for high cholesterol this test helps measure the effects of the drug.
Lab Tests (A-Z)
This test measures the amount of Apolipoprotein A1 in the blood.
Measures the level of apolipoprotein B (apo-B) to help assess risk for heart disease
The B-Type Natriuretic Peptide (BNP) blood test measures the level of BNP, an amino acid polypeptide secreted by the heart.
hs-CRP blood test measures the level of C-reactive protein (CRP) to help assess risk for heart disease and inflammation.
This Ayumetrix at home test kit may be used to asses your Cardiac Health by measuring the levels of hs-CRP and Hemoglobin A1C with your Total Cholesterol, LDL, HDL and Triglycerides.
Measures the number of LDL particles to assess risk for heart disease. TEST AVAILABLE ONLY AT QUEST DIAGNOSTICS.
This test measures the level of CoQ10, a vitamin-like compound that is found in the body.
The Creatine Kinase (CK) test measures the level of Creatine Kinase in the blood.
This test is used to detect D-Dimer in the blood, associated with blood clotting.
This test is used to measure the activity of Fibrinogen in the blood.
High levels of homocysteine in the blood are related to a higher risk of coronary heart disease, stroke, Alzheimer's disease and osteoporosis.
Cholesterol test for LDL, HDL, Total and Triglycerides. (aka Lipid Profile).
The Lipoprotein (a) test is used to measure the amount of Lipoprotein (a) in your blood. Lipoprotein (a) is a particle in your blood that carries proteins, fats and cholesterol.
The direct low-density lipoprotein test (direct LDL-C) measures the amount of LDL cholesterol.
Measures the number of LDL particles to assess risk for heart disease. AVAILABLE AT LABCORP ONLY.
This OmegaQuant at home test kit may be used to measure your Omega-3 index, Omega-6 : Omega-3 ratio, AA:EPA ratio, Trans Fat index and a full Fatty Acid Profile by a simple finger stick.
This OmegaQuant at home test kit may be used to measure your Omega-3 index, Omega-6 :Omega-3 ratio, AA:EPA ratio and a Trans Fat index by a simple finger stick.
This is a blood test used to measure Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids.AVAILABLE AT QUEST DIAGNOSTICS ONLY.
This test measures the amount and activity of Lp-PLA2 in the blood.
Cholesterol Testing and Cardiac Testing Locations By State
You can visit either LabCorp or Quest Diagnostics for you cardiac lab testing. There are over 3500 labs nationwide to choose from. If you'd like to search our locations using your zip code, here is our LAB LOCATOR.
You can order a lipid profile and screen for cardiac risk factors in most states of the country. Find your state on the list below.