Tests for High Cholesterol

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    Testing Methodology

    • A comprehensive cholesterol test is called a lipoprotein profile, commonly called lipid panel, which is measured in milligrams per deciliter of blood (mg/dL). You will need to fast for a minimum of 12 hours prior to the test in order to get an accurate reading. Your doctor will be looking at four numbers from your test: total blood cholesterol level, HDL level, LDL level, triglyceride level and the ratios of one number to another. Most doctors refer to guidelines established by the American Heart Association (AHA), to interpret the results of your profile and assess potential risk.

    Total Cholesterol

    • Commonly called your blood or serum level, this is a number calculated from the cumulative total of the three individual blood levels recorded as part of your lipoprotein profile. You can look at this number as the snapshot of your overall cholesterol level risk assessment. You want to keep your total cholesterol level below 200 mg/dL. The lower the number, the less likely you are to develop coronary artery disease. The latest AHA guidelines for total cholesterol are as follows:

      Low Risk: 200 mg/dL or under

      Borderline high risk: 200 to 239 mg/dL

      High Risk: 240 mg/dL or above

    Good Cholesterol

    • High Density Lipoprotein, (HDL), is commonly referred to as the "good cholesterol" because it aids in the removal of plaque from artery walls. The higher your HDL level is the better. Having an HDL level lower than established guidelines, may place you at increased risk of heart disease and stroke. Optimum HDL levels are gender specific as established by the AHA and are as follows:

      For men: 40 to 50 mg/dL

      For women: 50 to 60 mg/dL

    Bad Cholesterol

    • Low Density Lipoprotein, (LDL), is often called the "bad cholesterol" and is a better indication of risk for heart disease than total cholesterol level. With LDL, low numbers are better, so you want your LDL to be under 100 mg/dL. Higher LDL levels indicate a greater risk of heart disease. The AHA has established the following guidelines for both men and women:

      Near Optimal: 100 to 129 mg/dL

      Borderline: 130 to 159 mg/dL

      High: 160 to 189 mg/dL

      Very High: 190 mg/dL and above


    • Triglycerides are the major form of fat flowing through your blood stream and stored in your body. A total high cholesterol level typically coincides with high triglyceride levels. You want your triglyceride number to be low 150 mg/dL. The AHA has established the following guidelines for elevated triglyceride levels:

      Borderline: 150 to 199 mg/dL

      High: 200 to 499 mg dL

      Very High: 500 mg/dL and above

    Follow Up Testing

    • It is important to repeat abnormal tests within two to six months and continue working with your doctor to develop an action plan to maintain a healthy cholesterol profile. Aside from diet and lifestyle changes, managing your cholesterol may also require the intervention of prescription medications. For more information on cholesterol and reducing your risk of coronary artery disease, contact the AHA website at: www.americanheart.org.

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