Test 101

Cholesterol Test

A cholesterol test, also known as lipoprotein test, is primarily used to assess a person’s risk of developing diseases associated with elevated cholesterol levels. The cholesterol test measures amounts of cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood.

A cholesterol test is administered by drawing blood from a vein. Typically, the cholesterol test requires fasting for 12 hours prior to the test for the most accurate results. Certain medications can affect the results of a cholesterol test as well and your healthcare provider will advise you if you should stop taking any medications prior to a cholesterol test.

A cholesterol test differs from many other medical tests in that it is not used for diagnostic purposes. Essentially, a cholesterol test helps doctors evaluate an individual’s risk for developing a disease or condition and to assess what measures might be necessary to lower those risks. Cholesterol is a substance found naturally in the body, but excess cholesterol has been linked to cardiovascular disease.

There are two types of cholesterol, HDL and LDL. HDL is commonly referred to as the good cholesterol and it is this type of cholesterol that helps the excess cholesterol move to the liver for excretion in bile. While healthcare providers look primarily at levels of each type of cholesterol and triglyceride levels individually, a cholesterol test measures total cholesterol.

The normal values of cholesterol are determined in total values and the results of a cholesterol test will be listed as mg/dL, or milligrams per deciliter. A value of 200 mg/dL or less is considered low-risk as a factor for heart disease. LDL should be no higher than 130mg/dL and HDL should be no lower than 60 mg/dL. As the HDL value increases, the risk for heart disease lessens.

Anyone with precursory risk factors for heart disease such as smoking, family history, diabetes, or obesity should ask their healthcare provider to perform a cholesterol test for the purpose of monitoring this additional risk factor.

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