The American Heart Association holds high cholesterol responsible for heart attack, coronary heart disease, and stroke. For identifying the above-referred risk levels accurately, it is essential to have cholesterol tested, and correct result procured.
Unfortunately, there are instances where the result of cholesterol test may not yield the right result leading to an error in diagnosis which can have fatal consequences. The causes of false high cholesterol tests are many. Knowing them beforehand will help take precautions while going for the test.
Causes of False High Cholesterol Tests
Momentary changes in the chemistry of the body are the most common underlying factors that affect the cholesterol test results and make it surprisingly high.
Here are a few mentions of the things that affect cholesterol test and generate results that are not an accurate reflection of what is happening in the body in real.
- If there has been a cardiac event in recent past like stroke or heart attack, that may lower levels of lipid temporarily.
- In case one has undergone surgeries and infections, it is likely to show a decline in the cholesterol levels for a brief period.
- If someone is consuming medicines containing corticosteroids and estrogens that may heighten the level of lipids in the blood.
- Pregnancy is a condition that has a very high probability of raising the level of cholesterol in the blood.
- As per the standing instructions, before the blood collection for the test, a patient required to fast with water only for 9-12 hours. If the patient is unable to follow the advice, food in the body can raise the cholesterol levels of the body.
- Dietary food rich in protein raises the cholesterol level in the blood. As a result cholesterol test gets affected by food eaten the day before.
- Presence of alcohol in the body, at the time of blood collection, can lead to a test result showing falsely elevated triglycerides.
- Human error is one of the many causes of false high cholesterol tests. Errors can take place at different levels of human intervention in the test process, right from identification of the patient till the reporting of the results.
Tips to Avoid False Cholesterol Tests
- If the patient is under certain medicines that have corticosteroids and estrogens as its properties, it is better to consult the doctor and explain your medical history. So that your doctor can advise you what course of action you can take to avoid things that affect cholesterol test. It is also good to know all of the medications that may affect cholesterol test results.
- In the case of pregnant women, a cholesterol test result during the pregnancy cannot be considered reliable. The result becomes reliable only four months after the delivery of the child.
- Since many experts advice fasting before the lipid test, if one is not able to do that it is always a good idea to inform the doctor about it and even if the patient has eaten something before the test that should also be told to the doctor as those conditions may affect cholesterol test results.
- The cholesterol test gets negatively affected by the food eaten the day before the test. Hence, do not consume eggs, red meat, offal, shellfish, butter and alcohol a day before your cholesterol test date.
- Although it is not very common, mistakes can happen in the laboratory or reporting, and the result may be inaccurate due to human error. Ensure that the person who is drawing the blood asks for the patient’s identification. The pathologist should label the sampling tube with the information of the patient so that misidentification does not happen.
- The labs need to ensure strict quality control measures so that there is least human error in identification of the patient, testing procedures, analyzing the results, and reporting of the results.
In case the patient or bystanders feels that the cholesterol level test result is inaccurate, they should ask for a repeat test. Since these results are crucial for assessing the risks of fatal health conditions like heart attack and stroke, one must never hesitate to go ahead with a repeat test for an accurate result.
Also, they must ensure that all possible precautions have taken so that the causes of false high cholesterol tests cannot affect the test result. A word of caution, do consult your doctor before drawing any conclusion regarding a lab test result.
Doctor, author and fitness enthusiast, Ahmed Zayed, MD, is a surgery resident with a passion for helping people live a happy healthy life. He is the author of numerous health-related books and contributor to several medicine, health and wellbeing websites.