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Cholesterol testing and results

Cholesterol test results; LDL test results; VLDL test results; HDL test results; Coronary risk profile results; Hyperlipidemia-results; Lipid disorder test results; Heart disease - cholesterol results

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Cholesterol

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Description

Cholesterol is a soft, wax-like substance found in all parts of the body. Your body needs a little bit of cholesterol to work properly. But too much cholesterol can clog your arteries and lead to heart disease.

Cholesterol blood tests are done to help you and your health care provider better understand your risk for heart disease, stroke, and other problems caused by narrowed or blocked arteries.

The ideal values for all cholesterol results depend on whether you have heart disease, diabetes, or other risk factors. Your provider can tell you what your goal should be.

Cholesterol Tests

Some cholesterol is considered good and some is considered bad. Different blood tests can be done to measure each type of cholesterol.

Your provider may order only a total cholesterol level as the first test. It measures all types of cholesterol in your blood.

You may also have a lipid (or coronary risk) profile, which includes:

Lipoproteins are made of fat and protein. They carry cholesterol, triglycerides, and other fats, called lipids, in the blood to various parts of the body.

When Should You Be Tested?

Everyone should have their first screening test by age 35 for men, and age 45 for women. Some guidelines recommend starting at age 20.

You should have a cholesterol test done at an earlier age if you have:

Follow-up testing should be done:

Total Cholesterol

A total cholesterol of 180 to 200 mg/dL (10 to 11.1 mmol/l) or less is considered best.

You may not need more cholesterol tests if your cholesterol is in this normal range.

LDL (Bad) Cholesterol

LDL cholesterol is sometimes called "bad" cholesterol. LDL can clog your arteries.

You want your LDL to be low. Too much LDL is linked to heart disease and stroke.

Your LDL is most often considered to be too high if it is 190 mg/dL or higher.

Levels between 70 and 189 mg/dL (3.9 and 10.5 mmol/l) are most often considered too high if:

Health care providers have traditionally set a target level for your LDL cholesterol if you are being treated with medicines to lower your cholesterol.

HDL (Good) Cholesterol

You want your HDL cholesterol to be high. Studies of both men and women have shown that the higher your HDL, the lower your risk of coronary artery disease. This is why HDL is sometimes referred to as "good" cholesterol.

HDL cholesterol levels greater than 40 to 60 mg/dL (2.2 to 3.3 mmol/l) are desired.

VLDL (Bad) Cholesterol

VLDL contains the highest amount of triglycerides. VLDL is considered a type of bad cholesterol, because it helps cholesterol build up on the walls of arteries.

Normal VLDL levels are from 2 to 30 mg/dL (0.1 to 1.7 mmol/l).

Considerations

Sometimes, your cholesterol levels may be low enough that your provider will not ask you to change your diet or take any medicines.

Related Information

References

Fox CS, Golden SH, Anderson C, et al. Update on prevention of cardiovascular disease in adults with type 2 diabetes mellitus in light of recent evidence: A Scientific Statement From the American Heart Association and the American Diabetes Association. Circulation. 2015;132(8):691-718. PMID: 26246173 www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26246173.

Gennest J, Libby P. Lipoprotein disorders and cardiovascular disease. In: Bonow RO, Mann DL, Zipes DP, Libby P, eds. Braunwald's Heart Disease: A Textbook of Cardiovascular Medicine. 109th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 20151:chap 45.

Grundy SM, Stone NJ, Bailey AL, et al. 2018 AHA/ACC/AACVPR/AAPA/ABC/ACPM/ADA/AGS/APhA/ASPC/NLA/PCNA Guideline on the management of blood cholesterol: a report of the American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association Task Force on Clinical Practice Guidelines. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2018. pii: S0735-1097(18)39034-X. PMID: 30423393 www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30423393.

Marathe PH, Gao HX, Close KL. American Diabetes Association Standards of Medical Care in Diabetes 2017. J Diabetes. 2017;9(4):320-324. PMID: 28070960 www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28070960.

Pencina MJ, Navar-Boggan AM, D'Agostino RB Sr, et al. Application of new cholesterol guidelines to a population-based sample. N Engl J Med. 2014;370(15):1422-1431. PMID: 24645848 www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24645848.

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Review Date: 10/17/2017  

Reviewed By: Michael A. Chen, MD, PhD, Associate Professor of Medicine, Division of Cardiology, Harborview Medical Center, University of Washington Medical School, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team. 03-25-19: Editorial update.

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