A healthcare professional may ask a person to fast or avoid eating before a cholesterol test. However, this is not always the case. Unless they say otherwise, a person can eat and drink as usual the night before a cholesterol test.

A cholesterol test is a test that looks at the levels of cholesterol in a person’s blood.

This article will look at whether or not food consumption will affect the results of a cholesterol test and which foods to eat or avoid. It will also discuss how to prepare for a cholesterol test in general.

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If a healthcare professional has asked a person to fast before a cholesterol test, they should not consume anything around 9–12 hours before the test except water.

If a person does not need to fast, they should be able to eat and drink normally.

Does drinking lots of water before cholesterol test help?

It is usually a good idea to drink water before a blood test. It can make it easier for the healthcare professional to take the blood sample, as it can help keep more fluid in the veins.

According to the American Heart Association (AHA), healthcare professionals may recommend that people fast for 9–12 hours before having a cholesterol test.

The United Kingdom’s National Health Service (NHS) suggests that a person may need to fast for up to 12 hours if the healthcare professional will be carrying out the cholesterol test by drawing blood from the arm, rather than by using the finger prick test.

However, 2019 guidelines suggest that people aged 20 years and older without a history of heart disease probably do not need to fast before a screening test. People with a family history of heart disease may need to fast for accurate measurements.

According to the guidelines, a fasting blood test may be necessary when the results of a non-fasting blood test indicate a triglyceride level of 400 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) or higher. Triglycerides are a type of fat in the blood, and the foods that people eat can affect the level of triglycerides in their blood.

It is best for a person to discuss with their doctor which type of test they will be having and whether or not they need to fast beforehand. Unless a healthcare professional requests otherwise, a person should be able to eat and drink normally before the test.

Learn more about fasting before a cholesterol test.

Is it possible to cheat a cholesterol test?

It is best to follow a doctor’s advice before getting a cholesterol test. This might include fasting or avoiding food for up to 12 hours beforehand. This helps to ensure the most accurate results, which can help to catch risk factors for heart disease.

If a person does not need to fast, they can eat and drink as usual. In this case, what they consume will not affect their results.

Before a person has their cholesterol test, it is best to inform a healthcare professional about their family history of heart health and any symptoms or medical conditions they are currently experiencing.

It is also best to let the healthcare professional know about any medications, vitamins, herbal remedies, or supplements that they are taking.

If the person is taking any medications that may affect their cholesterol levels, the healthcare professional may ask them to stop taking them for a period of time before their test.

The person should only stop taking their medication if the healthcare professional asks them to and while under medical supervision.

A cholesterol blood test will measure the amount of each of the following in a person’s blood:

  • Total cholesterol: This is the sum of the cholesterol content in the blood.
  • Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol: This is the type of cholesterol that contributes to the buildup of fats within the arteries, leading to a higher risk of heart attack, stroke, and peripheral artery disease.
  • High-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol: Having a healthy level of HDL cholesterol can help protect a person from experiencing a stroke or heart attack. It carries the LDL back to the liver, which can break it down and help remove it from the body.
  • Triglycerides: These store excess energy from a person’s diet and can contribute to the buildup in a person’s arteries.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the ideal levels of each type are as follows:

  • Total cholesterol: Around 150 mg/dL is optimal.
  • HDL cholesterol: At least 40 mg/dL in males and 50 mg/dL in females is optimal.
  • LDL cholesterol: Around 100 mg/dL is optimal.
  • Triglycerides: Under 150 mg/dL is optimal.

If a person’s blood test results show that their levels do not fall within these ranges, they may need to make certain lifestyle modifications, such as dietary and exercise-related changes.

The foods a person consumes can affect their cholesterol levels over time.

Some foods can help reduce cholesterol. For example, soluble fiber can bind with cholesterol in the digestive system and remove it from the body. Additionally, polyunsaturated fats can help lower LDL levels.

According to Harvard Health, a person should aim to include the following in their diet:

  • barley
  • oats
  • okra
  • eggplant
  • nuts, such as almonds, peanuts, and walnuts
  • beans, such as kidney beans, garbanzo beans, and black-eyed peas
  • lentils
  • fruits, such as apples, citrus fruits, and strawberries
  • soy

Learn more about foods that lower cholesterol.

The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health notes that diets containing too much saturated fat and trans fat are the leading causes of high blood cholesterol.

People should aim to avoid foods that are high in saturated and trans fats. These include but are not limited to:

  • full fat dairy products, such as cream
  • animal fats, including butter and lard
  • fatty meats

A person’s doctor can advise on other foods to avoid and more ways for a person to manage their cholesterol.

In some cases, a person may need to fast the night before a cholesterol test. However, this is not always the case. A person should speak with a healthcare professional about whether or not they should fast before their test.

If fasting is not necessary, the person should be able to eat and drink normally before their test.