A lipid panel, also known as lipid profile or coronary risk panel, is a set of tests done on a blood sample to measure the amount of cholesterol and triglycerides in the bloodstream. It assesses the level of total cholesterol, high-density lipoprotein (HDL), low-density lipoprotein (LDL), and triglycerides. The blood sample may be extracted in an outpatient clinic or at the bedside if the person undergoing the blood test is confined in a medical care facility.
While cholesterol and triglycerides are considered as vital to good health, abnormal levels of these substances in the bloodstream may expose a person to serious health risks. Such risks may include stroke, heart attack, and coronary artery disease (CAD). It is advisable that most people periodically undergo a lipid panel to check for abnormal cholesterol and triglyceride levels and create a treatment plan if they are found.
Fasting is usually required prior to taking of a person's blood sample for a lipid test to enhance the accuracy in the measurement of cholesterol and triglyceride levels. During the fast, a person is usually asked to abstain from all food and beverages except water. A person is typically asked to fast for around 9 to 12 hours before his or her blood is taken for a lipid panel.
The blood sample to be used in a lipid panel is typically extracted from a vein in the arm or at the back of the hand. The healthcare provider drawing the blood sample usually wraps an elastic band around the arm of the person to make the vein bulge and facilitate the taking of blood. The blood sample that is drawn into the syringe barrel attached to the needle is then brought to the laboratory for analysis. Blood extraction is usually completed in around five to ten minutes.
A lipid panel measures the levels of triglycerides and cholesterol in the blood. Triglycerides are the chemical structure of fat inside a person's body. High levels of triglycerides in a lipid panel can indicate several different diseases, and may be linked to coronary artery disease.
A level of LDL that is higher than normal may be bad for the heart. LDL is made up mostly of cholesterol and a small amount of protein. It can deposit cholesterol on the wall of the coronary arteries, where it can harden to become plaque; this plaque may cause the arteries to narrow and limit the flow of oxygen-rich blood to the heart. LDL has been branded as "bad cholesterol" because of the potential damage it can do to the coronary arteries.
A high level of HDL in the bloodstream is usually considered good for the heart. It is composed mainly of proteins and a small amount of cholesterol. It helps remove cholesterol from the arterial walls and brings the cholesterol to the liver for removal from the body. As such, it has been labeled as the "good cholesterol."