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What is VLDL test?

Lipoproteins are complex molecules made of lipids and proteins. They are responsible for carrying lipids to different parts of the body. Each lipoprotein has varying amounts of triglycerides, cholesterol and proteins. Very-low-density lipoprotein or VLDL is a type of cholesterol which contains a high amount of triglycerides and is associated with the deposition of plaque in arteries. The latter is one of the major risk factors for heart diseases. 

A VLDL test helps check the levels of these very-low-density lipoproteins in the bloodstream. 

The alternative name for the test is VLDL-C.

  1. Why is a VLDL test performed?
  2. How do you prepare for a VLDL test?
  3. How is a VLDL test performed?
  4. What do VLDL test results mean?

A VLDL test is ordered to assess the risk of heart disease in an individual as increased VLDL levels can lead to coronary heart disease.

Doctors might recommend the test as part of the coronary risk profile. VLDL assessment is typically not ordered separately but is reported along with the results of a lipid profile. To identify the risk of heart disease in healthy individuals, a lipid profile may need to be performed every 4 to 6 years in adults; it should be done once before 9 and 11 years and later between 17 and 21 years in children.

Individuals with a risk of heart disease and on treatment may need to be tested more often to monitor their treatment. Some of the risk factors include conditions, such as diabetes, hypertension, being overweight and a family history of heart diseases.

You might be asked to fast for about 9 to 12 hours before the test and avoid drinking alcohol 24 hours prior to the test. Though water may be allowed.

In some cases, this test might be done without fasting. Make sure to follow the instructions given by your doctor and inform them if you have fasted.

A blood sample will be obtained from a vein at the back of your hand or the inside of your elbow.

In some people, collecting the blood sample might be difficult than others as arteries and veins vary in size from one person to another. Some possible risks while collecting the sample are as follows:

  • Feeling light-headed
  • Excessive bleeding
  • Infection at the site of withdrawal of blood sample
  • Fainting
  • Accumulation of blood underneath the skin

Normal values of VLDL might slightly differ among laboratories. Consult your physician to understand the meaning of your test results.

Normal results:

Normal VLDL levels are in the range of 2 to 30 mg/dL.

Abnormal results:

Higher-than-normal VLDL cholesterol levels might be associated with a higher risk of stroke and heart disease. 

Most of the laboratories measure VLDL levels based on the triglyceride levels as there is no direct way of measuring VLDL.

Disclaimer: All results must be clinically correlated with the patient’s complaints to make a complete and accurate diagnosis. The above information is provided from a purely educational point of view and is in no way a substitute for medical advice by a qualified doctor.

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References

  1. Stone NJ et.al. Treatment of blood cholesterol to reduce atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease risk in adults: synopsis of the 2013 American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association cholesterol guideline. Ann Intern Med. 2014 Mar 4;160(5):339-43. PMID: 24474185
  2. Russell La Fayette Cecil, Lee Goldman, Andrew I. Schafer. Goldman's Cecil Medicine,Expert Consult Premium Edition. Elsevier Health Sciences, 2012
  3. MedlinePlus Medical: US National Library of Medicine; VLDL test
  4. MSD mannual consumer version [internet].VLDL Cholesterol. Merck Sharp & Dohme Corp. Merck & Co., Inc., Kenilworth, NJ, USA
  5. Lab tests online. VLDL Cholesterol. American Association for Clinical Chemistry [internet].