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LDL Cholesterol Test

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KEY POINTS

  • This blood test measures a kind of fat (lipid) called low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol.
  • The LDL test helps your child’s healthcare provider check your child’s risk for heart disease or blocked arteries. It can also check how well treatment is working.
  • Make sure your child follows your healthcare provider’s instructions about eating, drinking, and exercising before the test.

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What is the LDL cholesterol test?

This blood test measures a kind of fat (lipid) called low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol. LDL, also called bad or cholesterol, is a type of blood fat that leads to fatty deposits that form in the arteries and make them narrower. Your child needs cholesterol to make hormones and to build and keep healthy cells. However, too much harmful blood fat can cause problems that increase your child’s risk for heart disease, heart attack, and stroke as an adult. Think of "L" for "lousy" cholesterol.

Your child’s body makes some cholesterol and gets the rest from foods such as meats, eggs, and milk products.

Tests measuring other types of cholesterol and fats are often done at the same time as the LDL test. Together, these lipid tests are often called a lipid panel. Some children and teens should have a lipid panel between the ages of 9 and 11 years and again between the ages of 17 and 21 years. Your child’s healthcare provider may order a lipid panel at a younger age or more often based on your child’s and your family’s risk factors.

Why is this test done?

The LDL test, as part of a lipid panel, helps your child’s healthcare provider check your child’s risk for heart disease or atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis is a hardening, narrowing, or blockage of the arteries.

If you are working to improve your child’s cholesterol levels with healthy food choices, physical activity, or medicine, this test can help show how well treatment is working.

How do I prepare my child for this test?

  • Your child should avoid eating fatty foods the evening before the test.
  • Your child’s healthcare provider will tell you when your child should stop eating and drinking before the test. Food and drink before the test may affect the results.
  • Your child should avoid exercise for 12 to 14 hours before the test.
  • Your child may need to avoid taking certain medicines before the test because they might affect the test result. Make sure your child’s healthcare provider knows about any medicines, herbs, or supplements that your child is taking. Ask your child’s provider before stopping any of your child’s regular medicines.
  • Talk to your child’s healthcare provider if you have any questions about the test.

How is the test done?

Having this test will take just a few minutes. A small amount of blood is taken from a vein in your child’s arm with a needle. The blood is collected in tubes and sent to a lab.

Ask your child’s healthcare provider when and how you will get the result of your child’s test.

What does the test result mean?

Because LDL cholesterol increases your child’s risk for heart disease, lower numbers are better. Your child’s LDL usually should be below 110 mg/dL. Talk to your child’s healthcare provider about what your child’s LDL and other cholesterol target levels should be.

Some of the reasons your child’s LDL level may be high are:

  • Your child is overweight.
  • Your child eats too many greasy or fatty foods.
  • Your child smokes.
  • Your child does not get enough physical activity.
  • Your child has a family history of high LDL levels.
  • Your child has another condition such as diabetes, thyroid disease, kidney disease, or something that affects the immune system such as lupus.

What if my child’s test result is not normal?

Test results are only one part of a larger picture that takes into account your child’s medical history, physical exam, and current health. Sometimes a test needs to be repeated to check the first result. Talk to your child’s healthcare provider about the results and ask questions, such as:

  • Whether your child needs more tests
  • What kind of treatment your child might need
  • What lifestyle, diet, or other changes your child might need to make
Developed by Change Healthcare.
Pediatric Advisor 2019.4 published by Change Healthcare.
Last modified: 2019-05-30
Last reviewed: 2019-05-13
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
© 2018 Change Healthcare LLC and/or one of its subsidiaries
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