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Health Journey Support | Blood Test for Cholesterol

A blood test for cholesterol, called a fasting lipoprotein profile, measures your levels of total cholesterol; LDL, also known as "bad” cholesterol; HDL, also known as "good” cholesterol; and a type of fat in your blood called triglycerides. This brochure describes the ideal test results for your blood cholesterol levels, and the risk factors for coronary heart disease.

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This information is intended for US Consumers

Blood Test for Cholesterol

Your health care provider may have asked you to get a blood test to measure your cholesterol. The National Institutes of Health cholesterol treatment guidelines recommend you have a blood test every five years if you are twenty years or older.

Your Lipoprotein Profile

The test, called a fasting lipoprotein profile, measures your levels of:

  • Total cholesterol
  • LDL (low-density lipoprotein), also known as "bad" cholesterol
  • HDL (high-density lipoprotein), also known as "good" cholesterol
  • Triglycerides, a type of fat carried in your blood. Triglycerides are found in meat and dairy products, tropical oils, and many processed foods

Fasting Is Important

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During this test, a blood sample will be taken after you have not eaten for nine to twelve hours. Fasting ensures accurate test results.

Fasting (not eating for a period of time) before your test ensures accurate test results.

Ideal Cholesterol Goals

  • The total cholesterol goal should be less than 200 mg/dL (milligrams per deciliter)
  • For most people, an ideal HDL, or "good" cholesterol, should be 60 mg/dL or higher
  • An ideal LDL, or "bad" cholesterol, should be less than 100 mg/dL
  • Fasting triglycerides should be less than 150 mg/dL

Your Goals May Vary

If you already have heart disease, and multiple or severe risk factors, your doctor may lower your LDL cholesterol goal to less than 70 mg/dL.

Your specific goals may vary depending on your health situation. Ask your doctor what your lipid goals should be.

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Cholesterol Levels and Risk Factors for Heart Disease

If you have high blood cholesterol levels, you have a greater risk of coronary heart disease (CHD).

In heart disease, blood vessels called coronary arteries become narrowed, or blocked by a waxy substance containing cholesterol, called plaque.

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Over time, plaque may reduce or block the flow of oxygen-rich blood to your heart muscle, and cause a heart attack.

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Heart Disease Risk Factors You Can Control

There are many known risk factors for heart disease. Risk factors you can control include:

  • High blood cholesterol and triglycerides
  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes and prediabetes
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Smoking
  • Lack of physical activity
  • Unhealthy diet
  • Stress

Heart Disease Risk Factors You Can't Control

Risk factors you can't control include:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Having a family history of heart disease

The information in this handout has been created and peer reviewed by graduate-level medical illustrators, followed by reviews from medical subject experts, either physicians or PhDs on the Nucleus Medical Review Board, to ensure medical accuracy and audience level appropriateness.

The handout is intended to supplement the information you receive from your health care provider and should never be considered personal medical advice. Always contact your health care provider with health questions and concerns.