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Cholesterol and triglyceride tests are blood tests that measure the total amount of fatty substances (cholesterol and triglycerides) in the blood.
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.
Cholesterol screening is often available in supermarkets, pharmacies, shopping malls, and other public places. Home cholesterol testing kits also are available. The results of tests done outside a doctor's office or lab may not be accurate. If you have cholesterol screening done outside your doctor's office, talk with your doctor about the accuracy of the results.
Cholesterol and triglyceride testing is done:
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.footnote 1 Other organizations recommend cholesterol tests for people ages 40 to 75.footnote 2
For more information, see When to Have a Cholesterol Test.
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? ).
The health professional taking a sample of your blood will:
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.
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, if so, what treatment is best for you.
Less than 200 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL)
40 mg/dL or higher
Less than 100 mg/dL (less than 70 mg/dL for people at high risk for a heart attack)
Less than 150 mg/dL
If your LDL cholesterol is 190 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) or more, it might mean that you have a familial lipid disorder.
For children and teens, test results are slightly different than for adults. For more information, see Cholesterol in Children and Teens.
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:
CitationsGoff 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 (2016). Statin use for the primary prevention of cardiovascular disease in adults: U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommendation statement. JAMA, 316(19): 1997–2007. DOI: 10.1001/jama.2016.15450. Accessed April 25, 2017.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.Other Works ConsultedChernecky CC, Berger BJ (2013). Laboratory Tests and Diagnostic Procedures, 6th ed. St. Louis: Saunders.Fischbach FT, Dunning MB III, eds. (2009). Manual of Laboratory and Diagnostic Tests, 8th ed. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins.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.Miller M, et al. (2011). Triglycerides and cardiovascular disease: A scientific statement from the American Heart Association. Circulation, 123(20): 2292–2333.Stone NJ, et al. (2013). 2013 ACC/AHA guideline on the treatment of blood cholesterol to reduce atherosclerotic cardiovascular risk in adults: 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.0000437738.63853.7a. Accessed November 18, 2013.
ByHealthwise StaffPrimary Medical ReviewerE. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal MedicineKathleen Romito, MD - Family MedicineMartin J. Gabica, MD - Family MedicineElizabeth T. Russo, MD - Internal MedicineAdam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
Current as ofDecember 6, 2017
Current as of: December 6, 2017
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review: E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine & Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine & Martin J. Gabica, MD - Family Medicine & Elizabeth T. Russo, MD - Internal Medicine & Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
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