Many healthcare experts recommend that everyone have their cholesterol levels checked every 5 years or so, even more frequently if you are at a higher risk of developing cardiovascular diseases.
This standard blood test can help identify a buildup of fats and plaques in your arteries that could lead to health conditions like a heart attack or stroke.
Besides the standard tests, though, there is another type of test: an advanced cholesterol test. This can detect smaller cholesterol particles in your bloodstream that standard testing cannot currently recognize.
In this article, you’ll learn about what an advanced cholesterol test can show, who might need this kind of test, and what to expect from this kind of cholesterol test.
A standard cholesterol blood test is also known as a lipid panel. It requires fasting for several hours before your test, and will give your healthcare professional estimates on how much of the following cholesterol types are in your blood:
- high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol
- low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol
- very low-density lipoprotein (VLDL)
- total cholesterol
Unlike standard lipid panels, an advanced cholesterol test can detect smaller particles of LDL that may not show up on the standard test. These smaller particles may be present in people with a low LDL level on a standard test, but they can still pose problems, as they can more easily invade the walls of your arteries to form plaques.
Your healthcare professional may order an advanced lipid panel in addition to your regular testing, but the advanced screening doesn’t require fasting beforehand. Some of the most common elements included in an advanced cholesterol test check for:
- apolipoprotein A-I (apo A-I)
- apolipoprotein B (apoB)
- lipoprotein(a) (Lp[a])
- LDL particle number (LDL-P) and size
- HDL particle numbers and sizes
Some health specialists suggest that people get advanced cholesterol testing regularly. But this testing is not always necessary. People with a high risk or family history of cardiovascular disease are most in need of this advanced testing method.
Those who need this advanced test may include people who have:
- unexplained early coronary artery disease
- resistance to statin medications
- rapid unexplained progression of atherosclerosis
- progression of cardiovascular disease even if LDL is at goal
As with any condition, additional testing is justifiable only if the results will change treatment.
At this time, not all healthcare professionals advise advanced cholesterol tests for the public. People who may benefit from this test more often include those with:
- chronic kidney disease
- coronary artery disease, especially without known risk factors
- strong family history of cardiovascular diseases
- LDL levels resistant to statin treatment
It’s important to talk with your healthcare team about your individual and family risk factors for coronary artery diseases. Routine cholesterol screening — and perhaps advanced testing — could be part of your preventive care and overall wellness plan, as it can detect problems early on that could lead to more serious health conditions.
Some of the more common complications of high cholesterol include:
Many health experts generally encourage regular cholesterol screening, but having these additional risk factors may require testing more often:
- a high fat diet
- lack of exercise
- cigarette smoking
- kidney disease
- thyroid disease
- a family history of cardiovascular problems
If you have rising typical cholesterol levels, or you already have borderline hypercholesterolemia, there are steps you can take to lower your bad cholesterol and increase your good cholesterol before you need the help of medications.
Tips for lowering your cholesterol
Some natural ways you can try to manage your cholesterol can include the following:
- Avoid eating foods high in fats, saturated fats, and trans fat.
- Choose lean proteins like chicken, beans, and fish.
- Eat plenty of high fiber foods.
- Boil, steam, or grill your meals.
- Exercise regularly.
- Quit or reduce smoking.
There are many tests available for routine cholesterol testing at home. These tests can help you keep an eye on your cholesterol levels between appointments with your healthcare professional.
As a whole, it’s a good idea to receive testing and guidance on your results from your healthcare professional.
At this time, advanced cholesterol testing is unavailable to the at-home testing market. If you think you need an advanced cholesterol test, discuss your concerns with your healthcare professional.
Advanced cholesterol screening can detect smaller cholesterol particles that aren’t usually in standard lipid tests. Not everyone needs this test, but your healthcare professional may recommend advanced cholesterol screening if you are at a high risk of developing coronary artery disease or other cardiovascular diseases.
Talk with your doctor if you are interested in having them perform an advanced cholesterol test.