How is my cholesterol measured?

Having your cholesterol measured is a simple and effective way of understanding your potential risk of developing heart disease.

A simple and straightforward blood test, or screening, tells you and you’re your doctor what you need to know about your cholesterol level, also called lipid profile. Blood is taken, and the amount of cholesterol is measured as milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) of blood withdrawn.

Let’s look at the general procedure for having your cholesterol measured:

  • The blood is usually taken from a vein on the inside of your elbow.
  • The skin over the vein is cleansed with a sterile wipe.
  • To make the vein prominent, a tight band is often put around your upper arm, if needed, and the vein is gently patted, or you may be asked to clench your fist.
  • Using a syringe, or a special system with a needle and collecting bottle, the needle is gently inserted through the skin into the vein and blood is drawn into the bottle or syringe. v
  • When the bottle or syringe is full, the needle is removed, and you'll be asked to press cotton wool on the vein to stop any more bleeding as the band is released from your arm. If you don't press on the vein you may get a bruise where the blood leaks under the skin.
  • Some blood tests, such as the glucose tolerance test, need several samples taken over a set period of time. They are done to check your body's response to something, and can mean waiting in the clinic for several hours, so bring something to read or do. You may have samples taken from different veins or may have a ' butterfly' needle put into your arm and taped down so that you don't have to have lots of needle pricks.

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