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Cholesterol & Triglycerides Health Center

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What Is a Cholesterol Test?

A complete cholesterol test checks your blood to see if your cholesterol and triglycerides are at a healthy level. This will help your doctor figure out your chances of having a heart attack or stroke.

When Should You Have a Cholesterol Test?

Once you reach age 20, you’ll probably have this test every five years. You may need a cholesterol test more often if you:

  • Are a man over 45  
  • Are a woman over 50  
  • Have cholesterol greater than 200  
  • Have low HDL “good” cholesterol less than 40 mg/dL if you’re male or less than 50 mg/dL if you’re female
  • Are obese, have high blood pressure, or have another condition that puts you at higher risk for high cholesterol
  • Are on treatment for high cholesterol

How Should You Prepare?

You may need to stop eating and drinking at least nine hours before the test. Do not take any medicines either during this time unless your doctor told you too. If you do, it will affect the results. If you schedule your test in the morning so you’ll be asleep for most of your fast, you won’t get too hungry.

Where Should You Have a Cholesterol Test?

The American Heart Association recommends you have the test at your doctor's office. If you see your doctor for the test, you’ll know:

  • The test is done by a qualified person.  
  • The results are accurate.  
  • The follow-up care is personalized to your needs.  

Community or workplace tests can be accurate if they are done by qualified staff. If you’ve not fasted before the test, you can only get your HDL and total cholesterol levels.  Share the results with your doctor, regardless of where the test is done.

What Do Your Test Results Mean?

You may hear your doctor call a cholesterol test a lipid panel. Your doctor will review your test and talk with you about your results, numbers that measure the amount of cholesterol and triglycerides in your blood.

Total cholesterollevel. This is a measure of your HDL “good” and LDL “bad” cholesterol. The higher your total cholesterol level is, the more likely you are to have a heart problem. The good news is that your doctor can help you lower it. The amount of total cholesterol in your blood will be a number:

200 mg/dL or less: A healthy level
200 to 239 mg/dL:
Almost an unhealthy level
240 mg/dL or more:
An unhealthy level

LDL “bad” cholesterol levels. This type of fat can clog your arteries when there’s too much in your blood, and clogged arteries can lead to a heart attack or stroke. A low LDL level helps protect you from both. The amount of LDL “bad” cholesterol in your blood will be a number:

WebMD Medical Reference

Is This Normal? Get the Facts Fast!

Is Your Cholesterol Level Heart Healthy?
What is your LDL (low-density lipoprotein) level?

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or
Answer:
Desirable
0-199
Borderline
200-239
High
240+

Your level is currently

Congratulations! Your total cholesterol level is in the Desirable range, and your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is optimal.

Congratulations! Your total cholesterol level is in the Desirable range, and your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is near optimal.

Your total cholesterol level is in the Desirable range, but your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is borderline high. If your LDL goes higher, your total cholesterol level could become Borderline High. Consider reducing the amount of foods you eat with saturated fats and increasing physical activity. If you get more exercise, your level of "good" HDL cholesterol may increase, which could also help to keep your levels of LDL and total cholesterol in check.

Your total cholesterol level is in the Desirable range, but your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is High. This may mean that your level of high-density lipoprotein (HDL), or "good" cholesterol, is too low. It is best to have a high level of "good" HDL and a low level of "bad" LDL. The HDL helps keep your LDL level in check. Ask your doctor for your HDL level. If your HDL is low, increasing your physical activity can increase it, which may help reduce your LDL level.

Your total cholesterol level is in the Desirable range, but your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is Very High. This may mean that your level of high-density lipoprotein (HDL), or "good" cholesterol, is too low. It is best to have a high level of "good" HDL and a low level of "bad" LDL because the HDL helps keep your LDL level in check. Ask your doctor for your HDL level. If your HDL is low, increasing your physical activity can increase it, which may help reduce your LDL level.

Your total cholesterol level is Borderline High, but fortunately your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is optimal. This could mean you have a high level of high-density lipoprotein, or "good" HDL cholesterol, which protects against heart disease. Or you could have other non-measured increases in LDL-like particles that can increase heart disease. Your LDL level also could be optimal if you are taking a statin medication. Please check with your doctor to get your complete lipid profile and see if you may need additional treatment. In the meantime, find more information on WebMD's Cholesterol Health Center.

Your total cholesterol level is Borderline High, but fortunately your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is near optimal. This could mean you have a high level of high-density lipoprotein, or "good" HDL cholesterol, which protects against heart disease. Or you could have other non-measured increases in LDL-like particles that can increase heart disease. Your LDL level also could be optimal if you are taking a statin medication. Please check with your doctor to get your complete lipid profile and see if you may need additional treatment. In the meantime, find more information on WebMD's Cholesterol Health Center.

Your total cholesterol level is Borderline High. Your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is Borderline High, too. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels!

Your total cholesterol level is Borderline High. Your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is High. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels!

Your total cholesterol level is Borderline High. But your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is Very High. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels!

Your total cholesterol is High, but your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is optimal. This could mean you have a high level of high-density lipoprotein, or "good" HDL cholesterol, which protects against heart disease. Or you could have elevated secondary lipids, such as non-HDL particles that increase the risk of heart disease. Your LDL level also could be optimal if you are taking a statin medication. Please check with your doctor to get your complete lipid profile and see if you may need additional treatment. In the meantime, find more information on WebMD's Cholesterol Health Center.

Your total cholesterol is High, but your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is near optimal. This could mean you have a high level of high-density lipoprotein, or "good" HDL cholesterol, which protects against heart disease. Or you could have elevated secondary lipids, such as non-HDL particles that increase the risk of heart disease. Your LDL level also could be optimal if you are taking a statin medication. Please check with your doctor to get your complete lipid profile and see if you may need additional treatment. In the meantime, find more information on WebMD's Cholesterol Health Center.

Your total cholesterol level is High. Your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is Borderline High. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels!

Your total cholesterol level is High. Your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is High, too. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels! If you are struggling to bring down your total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels, your doctor may prescribe medication, such as statins. Following medication, dietary, and exercise instructions should result in improvements.

Your total cholesterol level is High, and your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is Very High. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels! If you are struggling to bring down your total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels, your doctor may prescribe statins or other cholesterol-lowering medications.

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