7 lab tests you should ask your doctor to do during your annual visit


To get the big picture of heart health, you want at least one standard lipid panel, which measures your HDL (“good”), LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and triglycerides. But while this is certainly a good benchmark test, especially if you don’t have any risk factors for heart disease, many functional and integrative physicians believe it doesn’t go far enough. This is because, although high LDL cholesterol has always been linked to heart disease, there are still people with normal or even low LDL levels who develop heart disease, so there is more to the story.

Increasingly, integrative physicians, including Gandhi, Amy Shah, MD, and Kristann Heinz, MD, RD, call for more advanced lipid panels, such as those that include lipoprotein size breakdown (the size of cholesterol particles). Research suggests that looking at specific particle counts is more indicative of your risk than just focusing on total or LDL cholesterol. Basically, you want your particles to be big and floating, not small and heavy, because then they tend to lodge more easily in the walls of the arteries, which can increase your risk of heart attack and stroke.

If your insurance does not cover a more advanced lipid panel, you should not stress, but you should take a closer look at your standard lipid panel numbers. “One of the best predictors of heart disease prevention is having a good HDL triglycerides report ”, says Steven Gundry, MD, cardiologist and functional primary care physician. “So your HDL should be greater than or equal to triglycerides.”

Who should get it? All adults, especially if you have a family history of heart disease or other risk factors.

Blanket: A standard lipid panel is most likely covered by insurance as part of your annual checkup, while more advanced lipid testing may depend on your risk or family history.

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