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Alternative Names Return to topLow-density lipoprotein test
Definition Return to top
The LDL test measures how much low-density lipoprotein (LDL) you have in your blood. LDL is a type of cholesterol. Too much LDL in the blood can clog arteries.
How the Test is Performed Return to top
Blood is typically drawn from a vein, usually from the inside of the elbow or the back of the hand. The site is cleaned with germ-killing medicine (antiseptic). The health care provider wraps an elastic band around the upper arm to apply pressure to the area and make the vein swell with blood.
Next, the health care provider gently inserts a needle into the vein. The blood collects into an airtight vial or tube attached to the needle. The elastic band is removed from your arm.
Once the blood has been collected, the needle is removed, and the puncture site is covered to stop any bleeding.
In infants or young children, a sharp tool called a lancet may be used to puncture the skin and make it bleed. The blood collects into a small glass tube called a pipette, or onto a slide or test strip. A bandage may be placed over the area if there is any bleeding.
How to Prepare for the Test Return to top
You may be told not to eat or drink anything for 9 - 12 hours before the test.
The health care provider may tell you to stop taking certain drugs before the procedure.
How the Test Will Feel Return to top
When the needle is inserted to draw blood, you may feel moderate pain, or only a prick or stinging sensation. Afterward, there may be some throbbing.
Why the Test is Performed Return to top
This test is usually done to determine your risk for heart disease. The LDL test is usually done as part of a lipid analysis, which also checks for total cholesterol, HDL, and triglycerides.
LDL carries cholesterol to various tissues throughout the body. Too much LDL, commonly called "bad cholesterol," can lead to cardiovascular disease.
According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, the lower your LDL, the lower your risk for heart disease or stroke.
Return to top
A healthy LDL level is one that falls in the optimal or near-optimal range.
Note: Normal value ranges may vary slightly among different laboratories. Talk to your doctor about the meaning of your specific test results.
What Abnormal Results Mean Return to top
High levels of LDL may be associated with:
Risks Return to top
Veins and arteries vary in size from one patient to another and from one side of the body to the other. Obtaining a blood sample from some people may be more difficult than from others.
Other risks associated with having blood drawn are slight but may include:
References Return to top
Gaziano JM, Manson JE, Ridker PM. Primary and secondary prevention of coronary heart disease. In: Libby P, Bonow RO, Mann DL, Zipes DP, eds. Braunwald's Heart Disease: A Textbook of Cardiovascular Medicine. 8th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2008:chap 45.Update Date: 9/12/2008 Updated by: A.D.A.M. Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, Greg Juhn, MTPW, David R. Eltz. Previously reviewed by Glenn Gandelman, MD, MPH, Assistant Clinical Professor of Medicine, New York Medical College, Valhalla, NY. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network (1/23/2008).