Covers cholesterol and triglyceride blood tests to measure fatty substances in the blood. Explains why tests are done and how to prepare. Includes possible results and what they may mean. Looks at what may affect test results.
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.
Why It Is Done
Cholesterol and triglyceride testing is done:
Cholesterol and triglyceride screening
Talk to your doctor about when you should get a cholesterol test.
Some health organizations recommend that everyone ages 20 to 79 be checked every 4 to 6 years for the risk of heart attack and stroke, which includes a cholesterol test. 1 Other organizations recommend cholesterol tests based on age and risk factors for heart disease. 2
For more information, see When to Have a Cholesterol Test.
How To Prepare
Preparation may depend on the type of test you are having. You may or may not have to fast.
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 a blood sample taken from a vein.
Results are usually available within 24 hours.
What do your cholesterol numbers mean?
Your cholesterol levels can help your doctor find out your risk for having a heart attack or stroke.
But it's not just about your cholesterol. Your doctor uses your cholesterol levels plus other things to calculate your risk. These include:
You and your doctor can talk about whether you need to lower your risk and what treatment is best for you.
For children and teens, test results are slightly different than for adults. 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: December 4, 2013
Goff DC Jr, et al. (2013). 2013 ACC/AHA guideline on the assessment of cardiovascular risk: A report of the American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association Task Force on Practice Guidelines. Circulation, published online November 12, 2013. DOI: 10.1161/01.cir.0000437741.48606.98. Accessed November 22, 2013.
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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