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Divide over when to use in-depth cholesterol tests

October 25, 2011 • National News


Denny Fongheiser and his girlfriend Kim Adamis power-walk in Palisades Park in Santa Monica, Calif., Sunday, Oct. 23, 2011. More doctors are going beyond standard cholesterol counts, using another test to take a closer look at the bad fats, a count of particles that carry LDL through the blood. Fongheiser’s usual 3-mile-a-day walk left him suddenly panting but his insurer wouldn’t pay for a stress test because his cholesterol was normal. A month later, chest pain sent Fongheiser to the hospital where he needed a stent to unclog an artery. It turned out he had high particle levels, which his cardiologist now aims to get below the LipoScience-recommended level of 1,000 with cholesterol-lowering drugs. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon)

WASHINGTON (AP) — For heart health, you’re supposed to know your numbers: Total cholesterol, the bad LDL kind and the good HDL kind. But your next checkup might add a new number to the mix.

More doctors are going beyond standard cholesterol counts, using another test to take a closer look at the bad fats — a count of particles that carry LDL through the blood.

Cardiologists are divided over the usefulness of that approach. Proponents contend it might help them spot at-risk patients that regular checks might miss, or get more information about how aggressively to treat them.

But so far, guidelines from major heart organizations don’t recommend these extra tests. They’re pricier than regular cholesterol exams, although Medicare and many other insurers pay for them. And it’s not always clear what the results mean.

“I see a lot of people being confused,” says Dr. Nieca Goldberg of Login to read more

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