Ah, the dreaded cholesterol test. Just one of many less-than-fun medical procedures that one must undergo on a regular basis as we get older. But a new study has found that the test might not need to be as unpleasant as it currently is. According to a study published this week in the Archives of Internal Medicine, most people getting their cholesterol checked may not need to fast beforehand, greatly increasing the convenience of the test.

I don't know about you, but I never remember to fast before my regular checkups, so getting a cholesterol screening necessitated a separate appointment - one that I usually just skipped. But if this new study allows me to get a cholesterol test without the fasting - I will have a much better shot at getting it done.

For the study, researchers from the University of Calgary in Alberta evaluated the cholesterol test results for more than 200,000 people who had most recently eaten anywhere from less than one hour to more than 16 hours prior. They found that the average cholesterol levels for both total cholesterol and HDL (or "good" cholesterol) varied by less than two percent regardless of when the participants last ate.

In addition to making it inconvenient for patients, the fasting requirement makes cholesterol tests logistically complicated for doctors offices and labs who often must scramble to accommodate patients in the morning when most fasting patients will come in. This can make for long wait times that discourage patients from completing the test.

The study's authors noted that some patients - particularly those with high triglycerides or with diabetes, which is linked to triglyceride and "bad" cholesterol levels - should continue to fast before the tests to ensure that the numbers are as accurate as possible. But for the rest of us, a non-fasting test will work and increase the likelihood that it gets done.

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