Medically Reviewed by Vincenta Faulkner, RD, CNSC, CCTD
From the fear of needles to time commitments and concerns about the results, blood tests can be stressful. But on top of that, we need to fast beforehand? If there's one thing that doesn't help deal with stress, it's a deepened state of hunger.
When our medical professionals advise us to get a blood lipid panel, it's probably for a good reason, as much as we might hate getting one.
A blood panel's recommended fasting period is necessary to ensure that food won't affect your results. As much as it feels like an extra burden to have blood drawn, it's crucial to your overall health and provides excellent insight into different markers for health.
Recently, your doctor may have presented you with the option for a non-fasting lipid test. Some clinicians will opt for a non-HDL cholesterol level for the baseline rather than LDL or total cholesterol because the non-fasting state does affect the level of LDL cholesterol. This will improve the ease and convenience when a lipid panel is needed. But different markers, like "Non-HDL Cholesterol," are used for evaluation. Some practitioners prefer the non-HDL cholesterol marker as it has a greater predictive value than LDL cholesterol in this comparison.
Health care providers use lipid panels for children and adults alike to explore the risk of cardiovascular diseases like heart disease, heart attack, and stroke.
Let's explore why it's important to fast before a blood lipid panel.
What Happens During a Blood Lipid Test?
Knowing what to expect during a blood lipid test may help put your mind at ease.
When you schedule to see a phlebotomist, a medical professional specializing in drawing blood, a medical professional assesses the best vein.
The medical professional applies an alcohol swab to sterilize the injection site, and a small amount of blood fills the vile. Afterward, the professional will remove the needle and cover your injection spot with gauze or a bandage to stop the bleeding.
The whole thing generally only takes a few minutes from prep to band-aid.
What Does a Blood Lipid Profile Measure?
A lipid panel is a blood test that helps measure the number of fats and fatty substances in your body. Lipids measured in a lipid panel include triglycerides and good and bad cholesterol, aka high-density lipoprotein (HDL) and low-density lipoprotein (LDL), respectively.
Blood work is a crucial part of determining your health. Here's what is measured when you get a blood lipid panel done:
- Low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL): When you hear about cholesterol, it's likely low-density lipoprotein or LDL. This type is known as bad cholesterol. When you have too much, it can build up in your vessels, blocking blood flow and increasing your risk of heart disease.
- High-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL): HDL is considered good cholesterol. HDL cholesterol mitigates LDL, reducing the amount of "bad" cholesterol in your bloodstream.
- Very low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (VLDL): This type of cholesterol is sometimes seen less frequently on a panel. VLDL is mainly composed of Triglycerides, and often the Triglyceride level will be noted. This measurement directly correlates with whether you have eaten before your lab draw.
- Triglyceride levels (TG): Triglycerides are fats that we consume and create from foods in our diet. . Like VLDL, fasting before a blood test will likely affect your triglycerides.
- Total Cholesterol (TC): As the name suggests, your total cholesterol test measures all the cholesterol in your blood. Those cholesterols are LDL cholesterol, VLDL cholesterol (or 20% Triglycerides), and HDL cholesterol. If you have high cholesterol, the lipid panel will show this.
Why Do We Need To Fast in the First Place?
As you can imagine, there's a lot of information in your blood. It circulates throughout your entire body, delivering all sorts of critical nutrients, chemicals, and so on. So there's a lot to assess when it comes to a blood test.
That's why fasting can be so necessary.
Fasting ensures that we are not introducing unnecessary information into a blood test. For example, when you eat or drink before a blood test, the energy from food or beverages is still breaking down into sugars and fats in your bloodstream and have not yet been utilized or sent to storage. So the composition of your blood may be misleading in test results, showing higher amounts of sugars and fats than what typically is circulating throughout the day.
In a lipid panel, VLDL cholesterol and Triglycerides are influenced by your recent food intake, as are your LDL cholesterol if it is a calculated measurement.
When you take a fasting lipid panel, a test meant to measure your blood fat and cholesterol, the last thing you want to do is confuse your baseline with additional cholesterol circulating from the foods you recently ate.
Fasting Establishes Your Baseline Cholesterol Levels
You're here for a cholesterol test. Naturally, the last thing you want to do is mess around with critical information about your cholesterol levels.
Fasting cuts the core of how your body is working blood fat-wise. So for the most precise picture of your body's health, you should fast.
But how long do you need to fast to gain that clear picture of health?
How Long Do You Need To Fast for a Blood Lipid Panel?
The question is, really, how long do you need to fast for to get that optimal picture of your body's health?
When you're on edge, thinking about whatever you've got in the fridge, breaking down exactly how much time you need for your blood test is going to give you the power to endure past all your late-night hunger pangs.
The prevailing consensus is that you need to fast for at least 8-12 hours before you get your blood work done.
Depending on when your blood work is scheduled, that can be a significant amount of time spent dreading your appointment while being bombarded with stomach rumblings.
Although 8-12 hours may not seem like much on paper, when you've come home from a long day of work, and you've been looking forward to even just a little snack for the past couple of hours, that fasting period becomes ever more daunting.
Sure, you can usually get a 7 or 8 a.m. appointment so you can fast while you sleep, provided you don't sleepwalk to the fridge in the middle of the night.
But for folks that are looking for every strategy for getting through those dreaded hours leading up to the blood draw, here are some tips we've put together so that you can overcome your grumbling stomach and ensure that you're sticking to an honest fasting session.
Tips for Fasting Before Your Bloodwork
There's no one clear solution to combating those hunger pangs. But here are some strategies that may help you keep away from the snack drawer while you're fighting your way through those 8-12 hours.
Drink Lots of Water
Drinking a lot of water is already a great habit. But when you're fasting, staying hydrated can be an effective way to stave off cravings. Staying hydrated, at least for a little bit. It could be the extra help that keeps you from sneaking off to the fridge.
Read a Book or Watch a Movie
The battle you fight while fasting is a matter of keeping your mind distracted from your hunger. That being the case, reading a book, watching a movie, or any sort of entertaining activity can be a real help when you're trying to keep from eating.
The more engaging, the better. Just avoid any scenes that have food in them!
Go To Sleep Early
More often than not, your blood panel will be earlier in the morning. This allows you to carry on with the rest of your day without being affected by hunger. It also allows you to take advantage of getting to your bloodwork right at the start of your day, making it easier for you to keep from breaking your fast.
Stay Prepared for Your Blood Lipid Panel With Zizi
Getting a blood lipid panel can be a chore. It takes up a good part of your day and can compound your existing stressors.
At Zizi, we offer at-home cholesterol tests so you can measure your levels at your convenience. For best results, we recommend taking the our test after fasting for 6 to 8 hours. Most people prefer to take it in the morning before breakfast. Zizi's program also includes a heart health course, and supplements with FDA-backed claims. We want to empower you in your fight to lower your cholesterol. Explore Zizi today by clicking here, and see how easy it can be to take charge of your health, starting with your heart.
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