Accurate cholesterol test results are an important factor in determining your risk for heart disease. More than 35 million Americans have cholesterol levels high enough to put them at significant risk for cardiovascular disease. You may need to watch what you eat before a cholesterol check because some components of a standard cholesterol test are sensitive to food intake.
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A lipid panel typically measures several substances associated with cholesterol, including LDL, HDL, triglycerides and total cholesterol. Food does not immediately affect LDL and HDL. Total cholesterol and triglycerides are sensitive to food intake. You will need to fast for 9 to 12 hours before having your blood drawn for a lipid profile. This means you cannot have anything, except water, to eat or drink before your blood test.
Food elevates triglyceride levels. Your triglyceride levels can rise 5 to 10 times higher after a meal, according to LabTestsOnline.org. Most laboratories instruct you to fast before having your triglycerides tested. There is some recent interest in measuring nonfasting triglyceride levels because they may be more indicative of a person’s normal triglyceride status.
Food and Triglycerides
Triglycerides are especially sensitive to sugary foods, excess calories and fat. Most fat in foods and in the body is in the chemical form of triglycerides, according to the American Heart Association. Do not indulge in sweet desserts before having your blood drawn if you don’t normally eat sweets. Your body converts excess calories into triglycerides and stores them in fat cells until the body needs energy. Avoid over-eating in the days before having your blood tested to get an accurate triglyceride measurement.
You should eat normally in the week prior to having your cholesterol check to provide an accurate picture of your risk for heart disease. Avoid foods high in trans fat, saturated fat and cholesterol if you don’t normally eat fatty foods. Foods high in saturated fat and cholesterol are the main cause of high cholesterol.
Alcohol causes a dramatic rise in triglycerides. You should not drink alcohol for at least 24 hours before having your blood checked for cholesterol levels. Wine may increase HDL, or good cholesterol, but you should not drink any alcohol before your blood test.
Eating food or drinking beverages, especially alcohol, will elevate triglycerides and total cholesterol levels. A doctor may prescribe an unnecessary course of treatment if he is unaware the blood was obtained while the patient was in a nonfasting state.
The benefit of an accurate cholesterol check is it gives you an accurate assessment of your risk for developing heart disease. You can control your cholesterol by eating a healthy diet, getting enough exercise, and not smoking or drinking to excess. You may have to take medicine to get your cholesterol levels under control.