• Cholesterol Tests

    (Lipid Tests)


    Cholesterol is a waxy substance that is similar to fat. There are different types of cholesterol including:
    • HDL (high-density lipoprotein) cholesterol — also called good cholesterol
    • LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol — also called bad cholesterol
    Cholesterol tests measure the levels of cholesterol in the blood. They can measure the amount of HDL cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and your total cholesterol levels. Your doctor may use a test called the lipid profile test. This test measures all the cholesterol levels plus triglycerides. Triglycerides are are a type of fat or lipid in the blood.

    Reasons for Test

    This test is done to measure the levels of cholesterol in the blood. Abnormal levels of cholesterol are linked to an increased risk of plaque formation in blood vessels. This plaque formation can lead to heart attacks or stroke. Your doctor will use these results to estimate your risk of heart disease. For example:
    • High LDL levels increase the risk of heart disease.
    • Low HDL levels increase the risk of heart disease.
    Plaque Formation in Blood Vessel—Side Effect of High LDL Cholesterol
    Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

    Possible Complications

    There are no major complications associated with this test.

    What to Expect

    Prior to Test

    Steps to take before the test depend on the test you are having. For example:
    • Fasting lipid profile—You will need to stop eating or drinking 9-12 hours before the test. Water is allowed during this time.
    • Total cholesterol test and total cholesterol test with HDL measurement—You do not need to fast.

    Description of Test

    A blood sample is collected from a vein in your arm. You will be asked to sit in a reclining chair with your feet up. The most prominent vein at the crease of one of your elbows will be located. A tourniquet will be temporarily placed around your upper arm. A hollow, sterile needle will be inserted into the vein to draw the blood into tubes. After all the blood is collected (usually a very small amount), your phlebotomist will release the tourniquet. The needle will be removed. A clean piece of gauze will be placed over the puncture site. You will be asked to bend your elbow or hold pressure over the gauze to prevent bleeding. Your blood will be sent to a lab for testing. The entire process takes 5-10 minutes.

    After Test

    You will be able to leave after the test is done. When you arrive home:
    • Go back to your regular diet.
    • If told to do so by your doctor, take your medicines as usual.
    • If you have an area of bruising, apply pressure to the area. Use a piece of cotton under the bandage.

    How Long Will It Take?

    A few minutes

    Will It Hurt?

    It may hurt slightly when the needle is inserted.


    Your doctor may choose to have more testing done depending on your test results.

    Call Your Doctor

    After the test, call your doctor if any of the following occurs:
    • You have severe bruising or swelling.
    • You do not get your results within a few weeks.
    In case of an emergency, call for medical help right away.


    American Heart Association http://www.heart.org/

    National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/


    Alberta Health http://www.health.gov.ab.ca/

    Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada http://ww2.heartandstroke.ca/


    Akosah KO, Schaper A, Cogbill C, Schoenfeld P. Preventing myocardial infarction in the young adult in the first place: how do the National Cholesterol Education Panel III guidelines perform? J Am Coll Cardiol . 2003;41:1475-1479.

    Cholesterol. Lab Tests Online website. Available at: http://labtestsonline.org/understanding/analytes/cholesterol/tab/test . Updated February 10, 2012. Accessed November 19, 2012.

    Law MR, Wald NJ. Risk factor thresholds: their existence under scrutiny. Br Med J . 2002;324:1570-1576.

    Nomenclature of glycolipids. Department of Chemistry, Queen Mary University of London website. Available at: http://www.chem.qmul.ac.uk/iupac/misc/glylp.html . Published 1997. Accessed November 19, 2012.

    What is cholesterol? National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute website. Available at: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/hbc/ . Updated September 19, 2012. Accessed November 19, 2012.

    Revision Information

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