Definition & Overview

A lipid panel is a set of blood tests done to measure the amount of lipids in the blood. The results of the tests help determine if the patient has the risk of developing or has already developed conditions like cardiovascular diseases, pancreatitis, and diabetes, among many others.

Lipids are naturally occurring compounds that help in the normal physiologic functioning of the body. They are used by the body as stored energy and help in providing insulation. However, when abnormal amounts of lipids are found in the blood, it places the person at a higher risk of developing a variety of diseases and medical conditions.

Apart from determining the total amount of cholesterol in the blood, there are also several types of lipids that are measured in a lipid panel. These include the low-density lipoprotein (often called the ‘bad’ cholesterol), high-density lipoprotein (referred to as the ‘good’ cholesterol), and triglycerides that are stored in fat tissues as reserved source of energy. Some lipid panel results may even extend to provide information of the amount of very low-density lipoprotein cholesterol and the cholesterol - high-density lipoprotein ratio.

Typically, lipid panel results are used to determine the presence of dyslipidemia or the abnormal amount of lipids in the blood. In the recent century, a lot of people have been diagnosed with different conditions associated with dyslipidemia attributed to prevalent high cholesterol diet and sedentary lifestyle. A lipid panel could also help determine if this high level of lipids in the blood is due to elevated bad or good cholesterol and could become a basis for managing the health of an individual.

Who Should Undergo and Expected Results

Lipid panel, which can be performed as a preventative measure or a diagnostic procedure, can be recommended for:

  • Adults with a family history of heart disease, diabetes, thyroid gland abnormality, and hypertension. It is also recommended for males over 45 years of age and females 50 years and older, even if they do not have any family history of the conditions mentioned. The tests should be taken at a 3-5 year interval.

  • Obese individuals, as well as those who regularly drink or smoke

  • Children and young adults who have a family history and an increased probability of developing heart disease upon reaching adulthood.

  • Overweight children might also be asked to have lipid panel testing as part of their weight management program and determine their program’s efficacy. In some cases, this procedure is also helpful in diagnosing genetic disorders early on. An example of this scenario is the detection of familial hypercholesterolemia that often causes adverse medical conditions if left undiagnosed.

  • Patients under drug therapy to determine the interaction of their medications, especially if they have a known impact on lipid levels in the blood.

  • Individuals with sedentary lifestyles - Even people with no known medical condition or history can avail of lipid panel to monitor their health.
    Test results measure the milligrams of cholesterol per deciliter of blood, or in mg/dL. Normal low-density lipoprotein in an adult ranges from 70 to 130 mg/dL, while normal high-density lipoprotein should be within 40 to 60 mg/dL. Total cholesterol should not be more than 200 mg/dL while triglycerides should be within 10 to 150 mg/dL to be considered normal. If the results of lipid panel are out of the normal ranges mentioned, the physician may order other types of tests to determine the patient’s risks of developing cardiovascular diseases and other conditions. Taking in other factors such as sex and age, patients may be put on maintenance medication, such as statins, to control the lipid content in blood, be advised to change their lifestyle, follow an exercise program, and have a proper diet.

How is the Procedure Performed?

Patients who need to undergo lipid panel would be advised to fast for about 9-12 hours prior to having their blood drawn. The procedure is very simple and patients just need to visit a diagnostics laboratory or their physician’s office. With the use of a syringe, blood is drawn from a vein in the arm. Blood samples can also be collected using a finger stick to prick the finger.

Possible Risks and Complications

Having blood drawn for lipid panel could cause soreness or pain as well as slight hematoma at the injection site. Though rare, there is also the possibility of infection occurring where the needle was inserted.

Reference:

  • American Heart Association
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