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Tests for High Cholesterol (Lipid Panel)

Cholesterol is a form of fat and a certain amount of it is essential for life as it provides stability to the outer membranes of our bodies' cells. There are multiple forms of cholesterol circulating in the blood; these and other fats in the blood are together called lipids. A complete cholesterol test is known as a lipid panel or lipid profile in which the blood is drawn and the amount of cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood is measured and this test also includes the calculation of four types of lipids in the blood:

  • Total cholesterol: It is the sum of the blood's cholesterol content. Total cholesterol numbers combine levels for HDL, LDL, and a very low-density lipoprotein.
  • High-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol: Also known as "good" cholesterol it helps carry away LDL cholesterol keeping arteries open enabling free flow of blood.
  • Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol: Also called the "bad" cholesterol as too much of it in the blood causes the buildup of plaques in the arteries reducing blood flow. These plaques rupture and can lead to a heart attack or stroke.
  • Triglycerides: Triglycerides are fat deposits that are kept in the body. The triglycerides that is not stored as fat remain in the blood stream which thicken the blood and increases the possibility of clotting and blockage which can eventually lead to a heart attack or stroke. So it is important to keep your triglyceride levels as low as possible. Elevated triglycerides may contribute to a hardening of artery walls, elevating your risk of heart attack or heart disease.
Cholesterol testing is important for those who:
  • Have a family history of cholesterol
  • Are overweight
  • Are physically inactive
  • Have diabetes
  • Eat a high-fat diet
  • Are a 45 old man or a 55 old woman.
  • Drink too much alcohol.
  • Are under too much stress.

The lipid panel test involves a blood test which is usually done in the morning as fasting is required for accurate results. Blood is taken from a vein, usually from your arm. The puncture site is cleaned with antiseptic and an elastic band is wrapped around the upper arm and then the needle is inserted. The blood is collected into a vial or syringe and is given for testing. The ideal numbers after the test are:

  • Total cholesterol level should be 200 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) or less.
  • Ideal HDL level is 60 mg/dL or higher is good.
  • LDL should be less than 100 mg/dL.
  • 200 mg/dL or greater is considered to be high levels of triglycerides.