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January 27, 2022 | Blood Tests

What is a Lipid Panel?

Healthy balanced diet for heart health

No one is a fan of needles, but blood tests are an important part of managing your health. A lipid panel is one of the most common blood tests a healthcare provider may order as part of your health maintenance. To better prepare you for your next appointment, we break down the top things you need to know about lipid panels.

What is a Lipid Panel?

A lipid panel blood test is used to measure cholesterol levels in the bloodstream. Cholesterol is a substance that your body needs but too much of it can lead to vessel disease, heart disease, and stroke. Cholesterol levels are hereditary, but they can also be influenced by diet. A lipid panel identifies levels of two kinds of cholesterol, high-density lipoprotein (HDL) and low-density lipoprotein (LDL), as well as establishing triglyceride levels.

The American Heart Association recommends that all low-risk adults 20 or older have their cholesterol checked every 4-6 years.  Patients with additional risk factors may be asked to undertake more frequent testing.

Those risk factors include:

  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • Smoking
  • History of high cholesterol or heart disease

HDL Cholesterol

High-Density Lipoprotein (HDL) is the good cholesterol and is considered a healthy type of cholesterol because it can assist in removing excess cholesterol from the bloodstream. A higher level of HDL can lower your risk of heart disease.

Because HDL is a type of “good” cholesterol, you may be looking for ways to boost those numbers. Some of the top ways to maintain healthy HDL levels are to consume more olive oil, fatty fish, and high-fiber fruits.

LDL Cholesterol

Low-Density Lipoprotein (LDL) is the “bad” cholesterol and is considered unhealthy cholesterol because it increases the risk of heart disease and blood vessel disease. Reducing LDL is one of the primary ways to reduce your risk of coronary artery disease and heart attack. To avoid high LDL levels, it’s recommended that you avoid the types of trans fats found in shortening, fried foods, and some processed foods. Saturated fats from meat and dairy can also contribute to lowering HDL levels. Trans fats are considered so harmful that the Food and Drug Administration has prohibited food manufacturers from adding the main source of trans fat to commercially-available foods. Pharmaceutical treatment often includes medication that targets LDL until it reaches healthy levels.

Top lifestyle changes to improve your cholesterol include increasing physical activity, eating heart-healthy foods, and maintaining a healthy weight.

Your healthcare provider will look at your cholesterol values from the blood test as well as your risk factors, family history, biological sex, and age to determine whether you need treatment or lifestyle modification to prevent heart disease.


Triglycerides are the most common fat in the human body and are often elevated in those that are who are overweight or obese and are typically elevated in diabetics as well. This type of fat is closely associated with heart disease and is affected by several factors. Diets heavy in sugar, alcohol, and fat can lead to elevated levels of triglycerides, though high body weight, liver conditions, and thyroid issues can also play a role.  Elevated triglycerides combined with low HDL levels or high LDL levels are an indication of increased risk for heart disease or stroke.

Do I Need to Fast Before a Lipid Panel Test?

A lipid profile may be done in a fasting or non-fasting state. If you don’t fast, not all of the values for the typical lipid panel will be valid.  Fasting usually means not eating, drinking certain beverages, or taking medications 8-12 hours before your blood is drawn. If you have any questions about preparing for your blood draw for a lipid panel test, be sure to check with your healthcare provider for more information.

Next Steps

If you need to complete a lipid panel for an appointment with your healthcare provider, Scarlet can help. A Scarlet Health Professional comes to your home or workplace to collect a sample for the lipid panel and then delivers it to BioReference Laboratories for testing.

Meet Scarlet.


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