Total Cholesterol Test


Last Updated December 20th, 2021

What is cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a soft, fat-like substance that is needed for the proper functioning of our body. Our body needs cholesterol to produce important hormones, vitamin D and bile acids that help in the digestion of fat. The cholesterol is produced by the liver and natural foods like eggs, meat, and dairy products help in producing cholesterol.

Cholesterol is of two types; LDL or low-density lipoprotein (bad cholesterol) and HDL or high-density lipoprotein (good cholesterol).

A high LDL level can lead to life-threatening diseases like stroke and heart attack. A high LDL indicates that an excessive amount of fat has deposited in the artery walls. Narrowing of the coronary arteries in the heart leads to heart attack whereas excess cholesterol in the carotid arteries in the brain can lead to brain stroke.

What is a total cholesterol test?

Total cholesterol or TC often referred to as serum cholesterol means the total amount of cholesterol present in our blood. TC or total cholesterol test includes both LDL and HDL values as well as VLDL or very-low-density lipoprotein.

Why do I need a total cholesterol test?

High cholesterol or high LDL level can often trigger no symptoms or signs. You may be at high risk for heart disease, strokes, or peripheral artery disease. Your doctor or health provider may order a routine total cholesterol test if you have

– High blood pressure.
– Family history of heart disease.
– Family history of high cholesterol.
– You lead a sedentary lifestyle.
– Drink or smoke frequently.
– Diabetes
– Kidney disease.
Polycystic ovary syndrome.
– A high-fat diet.
– Men more than 45 years of age and women who are older than 55.

Is raised cholesterol level a common occurance in India?

Unhealthy cholesterol levels are commonly seen among the South East Asian population owing to genetic factors, unhealthy diet, and widespread sedentary lifestyle. In India, more than 70% of the population has low levels of HDL cholesterol or the “good” cholesterol, which is required to keep the LDL level in check. 30% of Indians have reported showing high triglycerides level. Overall, 3/4ths of the entire Indian population shows a skewed cholesterol profile.

At what age should I do a total cholesterol test?

According to the American Heart Association, adults at the age of 20 or more must have their cholesterol levels checked once every 5 years to rule out any risk of cardiovascular disease. In general, men who have crossed the age of 45 and women older than 55 are asked by their doctors to do a routine total cholesterol test.

At what age should a child undergo a total cholesterol test?

Since high cholesterol does not cause any visible symptoms or signs, doctors often recommend a total cholesterol test for young children and adolescents who fall in the risk pool. Children with a family history of heart disease, or with diabetes or obesity often are screened for high cholesterol levels.

Children can have a total cholesterol test:
– Once before puberty that is between 9 and 11.
– Once after puberty between the age of 17 and 21.

Do I need to fast before my total cholesterol test?

Yes, normally a total cholesterol test requires you not to eat or drink anything 12 hours prior to the testing. You will be required not to drink alcohol for 48 hours before the test.

Can I drink coffee or tea on the morning of my total cholesterol test?

No, doctors recommend not to drink coffee, tea, or any such beverages in the morning of your test as this might affect your test results. You can only consume water.

How is a total cholesterol test performed?

A total cholesterol test is a very simple procedure. The test is done in the following two ways:

A finger prick test: This is very simple and you will feel a small pinch on the tip of your finger. Your physician may tell you the results then and there. This is usually done via an at-home cholesterol test kit.

A blood sample is taken from your arm and sent to the laboratory for review.

A technician will locate a vein on your arm to take the blood sample. An elastic band or a tourniquet is tied around the area of your arm. He will then clean the area with an antiseptic and then draw blood using a needle and a syringe. After the blood is withdrawn, the needle is removed. The puncture site is pressed with a cotton ball to stop bleeding. A small band-aid is placed on the area of the puncture.

How long does a total cholesterol test take to perform?

The test will take only a few minutes.

Does a total cholesterol test hurt?

The test may cause little discomfort. Many people suffer from anxiety issues due to the withdrawal of blood. In such cases, it is better to talk to the technician so that he/she can ease out the procedure.

Can I eat after a total cholesterol test?

Yes, you can eat and carry on with your normal activities of the day just after the test. There are no special restrictions on diet or movement. However, if you want to resume any medication, it is advised to consult your doctor or your health care provider.

Where can I get my total cholesterol tested?

A total cholesterol test can be done at your home or you can visit the nearest laboratory.

What is the cost of a total cholesterol test in India?

The average cost of total cholesterol test in India can be anywhere between Rs 100 to 1200 depending upon the laboratory, accuracy, and quality of the test.

When will I get my total cholesterol test results?

You will get your test results within one to three days. If there is any delay, you can always call your doctor or the laboratory where the test was performed.

Can a total cholesterol test give wrong results?

A total cholesterol test generally gives accurate results, but sometimes the results might be incorrect. A total cholesterol test can give inaccurate readings due to the following reasons:

– Human error.
– Improper fasting.
– Drug interactions

What are the risks associated with a total cholesterol test?

A total cholesterol test is very simple and there are no possible risks involved. However, sometimes a bruise may occur at the site where the blood was withdrawn or a vein may be damaged. Others might feel a little lightheadedness or dizziness as the blood is withdrawn. This is a vasovagal reaction and will pass after taking rest for some time.

People taking blood thinners, need to put extra pressure on the site of the puncture to stop bleeding. Sometimes the site of the puncture may develop an infection followed by redness and swelling. This is very rare and needs to be informed to the medical practitioner immediately.

What is the normal total cholesterol level?

According to the American Heart Association, the normal total cholesterol level should be less than 200 mg/dL. More than that is considered to be risky and you must consult a doctor immediately.

Total CholesterolCategory
Under 200 mg/dL Normal
200-239 mg/dL Borderline high risk
More than 240 mg/dL High risk

The total cholesterol level under 200 mg/dL indicates normal levels. Levels between 200 and 239 mg/dL are considered to be borderline and a doctor should be consulted. More than 240 mg/dL is considered to be at high risk.

What do I do if I have high total cholesterol?

If you have a high total cholesterol level, it means you are at risk of a number of life-threatening diseases. High cholesterols can be easily controlled through medication and certain lifestyle changes. Here are a few steps that will help you control your total cholesterol levels:

– Eat a well-balanced diet and avoid unhealthy fatty foods. Your diet may include fresh fruits, whole grains like oats and barley, vegetables like okra, kidney beans, legumes and eggplant, low-fat dairy products, and lean protein.

– Avoid a sedentary lifestyle. Exercise moderately for at least 2 hours every day. Increase physical activity through aerobic exercises, brisk walking, biking, etc.

– Quit smoking.

– Avoid alcohol intake.

– Take the medication as prescribed by your doctor. If your cholesterol level is too high, your doctor may ask you to take medications on a regular basis.

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