Understanding Your Cholesterol Test
Some names that you may here bantered about when people or your doctor speaks of
cholesterol tests are: Lipid test, Liproprotein test or Total cholesterol test. All of these names are for
alternative names for cholesterol testing.
Your doctor has ordered a cholesterol test, or you have just received your results back from a test and you want
to understand the results and why it was necessary to have your cholesterol tested.
Your doctor of course is your first and best resource for understanding your test results but it is always good
to gather information about your health and keep it in a place where you can refer back to it if necessary.
Some names that you may here bantered about when people or your doctor speaks of cholesterol tests are: Lipid
test, Liproprotein test or Total cholesterol test. All of these names are for alternative names for cholesterol
The National Cholesterol Education Panel gave some recommendations in 2001, for all lipid tests so that they
could be performed after fasting and that they could measure all four cholesterol components: HDL, LDL, total
cholesterol, and triglycerides.
The total cholesterol test is the measurement of all lipid measurements taken at all laboratories, and is listed
as milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL). The higher your total cholesterol level generally the higher your risk for
A value on this test of 200 mg/dL or less is desirable. If your levels were at 240 mg/dL or higher that would
put you at almost twice the risk of heart disease as that person who has a level of less than 200 mg/dL.
If you or someone in your immediate family has known heart disease, peripheral vascular disease that is
blockages in the blood vessels of your arms or legs, or diabetes, your LDL cholesterol should be checked on a
The way the ideal LDL level is determined is by risk factors.
You have known heart disease, peripheral vascular disease, and diabetes than your LDL cholesterol should be
below 100 mg/dL.
Another study, the Framingham Heart Study, also found that there was no effect of cholesterol in the elderly (70s and 80s). The study did show evidence that cholesterol tests taken at age 50 was a good way to determine if they were at risk for heart disease.
If you have 2 or more heart disease risk factors (you are a smoker, you have high blood pressure, or you have low
HDL cholesterol, or a family history of heart disease, and are a man over 45 or a woman over 55; than your LDL
should be below 13 mg/dL.
If you have 1 of the above risk factors for heart disease or none, your LDL cholesterol should be below 160
If your HDL cholesterol levels are more than or equal to 60 mg/dL than this will take away one risk factor and
decrease your risk of heart disease.
If however, your HDL cholesterol is 40 mg/dL or lower than you add 1 risk factor for heart disease.
Even if you have low LDL and high HDL cholesterol, you may still be at risk for heart disease if your
triglyceride levels are high.
Normal triglyceride levels are less than 150 mg/dL. To be tested for triglyceride levels you must complete a 9 -
12 hours fast.
Not completing the 9 - 12 hour fast correctly could inadequately higher your triglyceride level result.
Discuss with your doctor not only your cholesterol test results but also what your risk factors are for heart
disease including any risk factors associated with your cholesterol test results.
If you are at risk for heart disease makes sure you discuss with your doctor your options for lowering your