Blood Cholesterol Tests

Why Do I Need A Blood Cholesterol Test?  

Every day, tens of thousands of people across the United States alone get their blood cholesterol tested. A cholesterol test is done simply to check a person's risk for heart disease. According to US government guidelines, adults aged 20 or older should have their cholesterol tested once every 5 years. A person should get tested more frequently, if he or she possesses certain risk factors such as:

  • His/her total cholesterol is over 200 mg/DL
  • They are a male over the age of 45 or a female over the age of 50
  • Their HDL (good) cholesterol is under 40 mg/DL
  • They smoke
  • They have high blood pressure
  • They're obese and/or sedentary
  • They have diabetes, kidney disease and/or thyroid disease, etc.

What Happens During a Blood Cholesterol Test?

Blood Cholesterol TestsThe test requires that you are fasting, which means that you have had nothing to eat or drink including prescription medications for at least 9 to 12 hours before the test. If you haven't been fasting, then only your HDL will be able to be tested.

During the procedure, the phlebotomist will take a blood sample from a vein in your arm. The entire process should only last a few minutes and the pain should be mild. After the procedure, a cotton ball and a bandage will be placed over the small puncture wound and you will be given instructions on how to collect your results.

You should be able to eat, drink and take your normal medications as soon as you return home.  Your doctor will let you know when your results will be in.

What Do the Results Mean?

Of course, once you have those results, you'll probably wonder what they mean. Your test report might look a bit confusing to you. It will show your cholesterol levels in milligrams per deciliter of blood (MG/dl). This determines how your cholesterol levels affect your risk of heart disease in addition to your risk factors and so forth.

A complete fasting lipoprotein profile will show you total blood (or serum) cholesterol, your HDL (good) cholesterol level, your LDL (bad) cholesterol level and your triglyceride level.

Here's the breakdown:

Total Blood Cholesterol

Less than 200 MG/dl – Desirable: If you HDL, LDL and triglycerides are also at desirable levels, then you are at a low risk of coronary heart disease. Regardless, it's still wise to eat heart smart, exercise regularly and avoid smoking. Continue to get your cholesterol checked every five years.

200 – 239 MG/dl – Borderline – High Risk:  Your doctor will need to evaluate your other levels to see where they're at. Your HDL and triglycerides may still be normal. Either way, it's a good idea to work on a prevention program that focuses on lifestyle changes such as healthy eating and adding in exercise. If your LDL is also at-risk, then you may need medication. Your doctor may want you to have you cholesterol levels rechecked more often.

240 MG/dl and over – High Risk: Generally, these people have twice the risk of coronary heart disease of those with a desirable level. If the test was not a full profile, your doctor will most likely order one now. You will need to work with your doctor to make lifestyle changes and possibly require medication to control your cholesterol. It's very likely that you will require more frequent testing.

HDL

Remember that – the higher the HDL levels, the better. Low HDL cholesterol (lower than 40 MG/dl for men and 50 MG/dl for women) puts a person at a higher risk for heart disease. In most men, HDL levels range from 40 – 50 MG/dl. In the average woman, these same levels range from 50 – 60 MG/dl. Levels of over 60 MG/dl are considered to help protect an individual from heart disease.

LDL

Less than 100 MG/dl is the optimal level.
100 – 129 MG/dl is near optimal/above optimal.
130 – 159 MG/dl is borderline high.
160 – 189 MG/dl is high.
190 MG/dl and above is considered very high.

Triglycerides

Triglycerides are a form of fat. People with high triglycerides often have high total cholesterol including high LDL (bad) cholesterol and low HDL (good) cholesterol, making it a recipe for coronary disaster.

Normal: less than 150 MG/dl
Borderline-High: 150-199 MG/dl
High: 200-499 MG/dl
Very High: 500 MG/dl

What Can I Do If My Results Aren't Good?

Sure, we sound like a broken record here at Cholesterol-Info.org. The best things you can do if your results aren't good are:

  • Work with your doctor on setting up a treatment plan
  • Change your lifestyle
  • Eat better
  • Exercise more
  • Take your prescribed medications
  • Reduce and/or quit smoking
  • Reduce and/or stop drinking alcohol
  • And ______________________(you fill in the blank!)