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. Sometimes your doctor will tell you that you may eat normally the day of the test.
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: