Cholesterol and Triglycerides Tests
Cholesterol travels through the blood attached to a protein . This cholesterol-protein package is called a lipoprotein. Lipoprotein analysis (lipoprotein profile or lipid profile) measures blood levels of total cholesterol , LDL cholesterol , HDL cholesterol , and triglycerides.
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Why It Is Done
Cholesterol and triglyceride testing is done:
Cholesterol and triglyceride screening
Some health organizations recommend that everyone older than age 20 be checked for high cholesterol. 1 Other organizations recommend cholesterol tests based on age and risk factors for heart disease. 2
Talk to your doctor about when you should get a cholesterol test.
For more information, see When to Have a Cholesterol Test.
How To Prepare
Preparation depends on the test. Ask your doctor which test you are having. You may or may not have to fast. For example, you can get a total cholesterol test or direct LDL test at any time, even if you recently had a meal or a snack. But if you get a test that measures LDL and HDL, you will fast for about 9 to 12 hours.
Many medicines may affect the results of this test. Be sure to tell your doctor about all the nonprescription and prescription medicines and herbs or natural substances you take.
Tell your doctor if you have had a test such as a thyroid or bone scan that uses a radioactive substance within the last 7 days.
Talk to your doctor about any concerns you have regarding the need for the test, its risks, how it will be done, or what the results will mean. To help you understand the importance of this test, fill out the medical test information form (What is a PDF document?) .
How It Is Done
The health professional taking a sample of your blood will:
How It Feels
The blood sample is taken from a vein in your arm. An elastic band is wrapped around your upper arm. It may feel tight. You may feel nothing at all from the needle, or you may feel a quick sting or pinch.
There is very little chance of a problem from having blood sample taken from a vein.
Results are usually available within 24 hours.
The values listed here are for adult cholesterol levels. Desirable cholesterol and triglyceride levels are slightly different for children and teens. For more information, see Cholesterol in Children and Teens.
What Affects the Test
Many conditions can affect cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Your doctor will talk with you about any abnormal results that may be related to your other health problems.
Reasons you may not be able to have the test or why the results may not be helpful include:
What To Think About
Last Revised: February 1, 2012
Grundy S, et al. (2002). Third Report of the National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP) Expert Panel on Detection, Evaluation, and Treatment of High Blood Cholesterol in Adults (Adult Treatment Panel III) (NIH Publication No. 02–5215). Bethesda, MD: National Institutes of Health. Also available online: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/guidelines/cholesterol/atp3full.pdf.
U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (2008). Screening for lipid disorders in adults. Available online: http://www.uspreventiveservicestaskforce.org/uspstf/uspschol.htm.
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