Why Is It Important To Have A Normal Cholesterol Level
A high cholesterol level can increase your risk of having a heart attack or stroke. You have an even higher risk if you also have other risk factors, such as:
Age over 45 for men and over 55 for women
High blood pressure
A history of heart disease in your father or a brother before he was 55 years of age or in your mother or a sister before she was 65 years of age
A low HDL cholesterol level
What Are The Next Steps If My Lipid Panel Results Are Abnormal
Since many factors contribute to cardiovascular disease and every person is unique, theres no one single way to treat abnormal levels of cholesterol and/or triglycerides.
If you have abnormal lipid panel results, your healthcare provider may recommend one or more of the following actions:
- Continued lipid monitoring.
- Lifestyle changes, such as changing your diet or starting an exercise routine.
- Starting a cholesterol-lowering medication.
What Do The Results Of A Lipid Panel Mean
Blood test reports, including lipid panel blood test reports, usually provide the following information:
- The name of the blood test or what was measured in your blood.
- The number or measurement of your blood test result.
- The normal measurement range for that test.
- Information that indicates if your result is normal or abnormal or high or low.
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Natural Remedies And Lowering Cholesterol
Its very important to talk to your health professional before using any:
- natural remedies
- or complementary therapies.
Sometimes they can do more harm than good. They may interact with any medication that youre taking, which can be dangerous. They can also make your medication less effective. Your doctor needs to know everything that you are taking to ensure that the combination is safe.
If youve been prescribed cholesterol-lowering medication, make sure you take it as directed by your doctor. This is one of the most effective ways to keep your cholesterol levels down.
How Is A Cholesterol Test Performed
To check your cholesterol levels, your doctor will need to get a sample of your blood. You will probably have your blood drawn in the morning, sometimes after fasting since the night before.
A blood test is an outpatient procedure. It takes only a few minutes and is relatively painless. Its usually performed at a diagnostic lab. In some cases, it can also be performed during a regular doctor visit, at a local pharmacy, or even at home. Walk-in clinic rates can cost anywhere from $50 to $100. Cholesterol testing at a local pharmacy can cost $5 to $25. An at-home test can cost anywhere from $15 to $25, while tests that need to be shipped to a lab can average $75 to $200.
There are very few risks associated with having your blood drawn for a cholesterol test. You may feel slightly faint or have some soreness or pain at the site where your blood was drawn. Theres also a very slight risk of infection at the puncture site.
Cholesterol levels are measured in milligrams of cholesterol per deciliter of blood. Ideal results for most adults are:
- LDL: 70 to 130 mg/dL
- HDL: more than 40 to 60 mg/dL
- total cholesterol: less than 200 mg/dL
- triglycerides: 10 to 150 mg/dL
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Getting The Most From Your Blood Test Results
There are quite a few more tests available, but the ones included here are among the most common.
To get accurate readings, be sure to follow your doctors instructions in preparing for tests. You may, for example, be asked not to eat and to drink only water for anywhere from a few hours to 12 hours beforehand.
Please follow these instructions, or your results may be skewed, requiring additional tests or even unnecessary medications.
If you dont understand something in your results, remember its okay to ask questions. Doctors are busy people, but you are entitled to the information. If your doctor cant provide it, ask the nurse or physicians assistant for help.
Knowing where you stand with these important parameters is essential for being proactive and owning your own health.We hope you find this guide handy and helpful the next time your doctor orders a blood panel.
Take good care.
Disclaimer: Please note the date of last review or update on all articles. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.
Feb 23, 2021Originally Published: August 20, 2012
When Should I Have A Cholesterol Check
We believe all adults should know their cholesterol numbers, no matter what your age. Even if you havent been invited for a cholesterol check its a good idea to get one anyway because its the only way to know your cholesterol numbers.
You should also be offered a free cholesterol test by the NHS if any of the following apply to you:
You are aged 40-74
Your GP should invite you for an NHS health check once every five years from the age of 40 to 74. The NHS health check is designed to spot the early signs of heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, diabetes and dementia. Youll be weighed and measured, have a cholesterol check and a blood pressure check, and youll be asked some simple questions about your health.
You are at high risk of heart disease
Your GP or practice nurse might also offer you a cholesterol test if you are more likely to develop heart disease. For example, if other people in your family have had it, you smoke, youre overweight, or you have high blood pressure, diabetes or certain other health problems.
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What Types Of Cholesterol Are There
There are two different types of cholesterol including:
- “Bad Cholesterol” which carry cholesterol particles throughout your body. LDL cholesterol is bad because it builds up in the walls of your arteries, making them hard and narrow which can increase the risk of a heart attack.
- “Good Cholesterol” which picks up excess cholesterol and takes it back to the liver. Having high HDL is linked to lower risk of heart disease, heart attack, and stroke.
What Are The Different Types Of Cholesterol
There are two types: high-density lipoprotein and low-density lipoprotein . As a general rule, HDL is considered good cholesterol, while LDL is considered bad. This is because HDL carries cholesterol to your liver, where it can be removed from your bloodstream before it builds up in your arteries. LDL, on the other hand, takes cholesterol directly to your arteries. This can result in atherosclerosis, a plaque buildup that can even cause heart attack and stroke.
Triglycerides make up the third component of cholesterol and act as unused calories that are stored as fat in the blood. Eating more calories than you burn can cause triglycerides to build up in the bloodstream, increasing your risk for heart attacks.
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What Does A Cholesterol Test Measure
In addition to measuring the total cholesterol in your blood, the standard cholesterol test measures three specific kinds of fat:
- Low-density lipoproteins . This is the “bad cholesterol,” the main cause of plaque build-up, which increases your risk for heart disease. In general, the lower the number, the better. But LDL cholesterol is only one part of a larger equation that measures a personâs overall risk of having a heart attack or stroke. For years, guidelines focused on specific target numbers for individuals to achieve to lower their risk. The most recent guidelines focus on a personâs overall risk and, based on that risk, recommend a certain percentage of LDL reduction as one part of a strategy for preventing serious heart and vascular problems.
- High-density lipoproteins . This is the “good cholesterol.” It transports bad cholesterol from the blood to the liver, where it is excreted by the body. Your HDL is another part of the equation that identifies the risk of a cardiovascular event. In general, the higher the number the better, although, as with LDL, the emphasis has shifted from specific target numbers to strategies for reducing the overall risk.
- Triglycerides. Another type of fat in the bloodstream, triglycerides are also linked to heart disease. They are stored in fat cells throughout the body.
What If My Cholesterol Levels Aren’t Healthy
As your LDL cholesterol gets higher, so does your risk of heart disease. Take these steps to lower your cholesterol and reduce your risk of heart disease:
- Eat heart-healthy foods
- Stay at a healthy weight
- If you smoke, quit
- If you have type 2 diabetes or high blood pressure, take steps to manage it
- Ask your doctor about taking medicine to lower your risk of heart attack and stroke
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What Are Normal Lipid Panel Results
The optimal level for each of the four standard tests in a lipid panel are as follows:
- Total cholesterol: Below 200 mg/dL.
- High-density lipoprotein cholesterol: Above 60 mg/dL.
- Low-density lipoprotein cholesterol: Below 100 mg/dL .
- Triglycerides: Below 150 mg/dL.
If your results are higher or lower than the target range, they may be classified as borderline-, intermediate-, or high-risk for cardiovascular issues. In general, higher-than-normal levels of total cholesterol, LDL and triglycerides and lower-than-normal levels of HDL can increase your risk of cardiovascular disease.
Its rare to have abnormally low levels of cholesterol. If you do, its usually due to a health condition thats causing malnutrition.
Is High Cholesterol Always Bad
When we talk about cholesterol levels, the total number may be misleading. Your total cholesterol is a score that combines your HDL and LDL cholesterol and triglyceride level.
Since this score combines different types of cholesterol, lets use two examples to unpack what this number means:
Person A has a normal total cholesterol level. But when you look at the breakdown, they have low HDL cholesterol and a higher LDL cholesterol.
Person B has high total cholesterol. But they have high HDL cholesterol and low LDL cholesterol.
Person A is at much higher risk for things like heart disease than Person B, even though Person A has normal total cholesterol and Person B has high cholesterol.
Its also helpful to remember that some people with high LDL may never develop blockages in the heart or other organs. When we look at LDL cholesterol, we have to keep the big picture in mind. If youre young and have no risk factors, then your LDL level may not be as harmful as it is for someone who is over 60 or has other risk factors for heart disease.
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What Does Hdl Cholesterol Do
HDL clears from the body via the liver. HDL may therefore prevent the buildup of plaque, protect your arteries, and protect you from atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease. It is considered the good cholesterol, and higher levels are better. A good goal to aim for is higher than 55 mg/dL for women and 45 mg/dL for men. The higher your HDL cholesterol numbers, the lower your risk is for heart disease, vascular disease, and stroke.
What Do The Results Mean
Cholesterol is usually measured in milligrams of cholesterol per deciliter of blood. The information below shows how the different types of cholesterol measurements are categorized.
|Total Cholesterol Level|
|Less than 40 mg/dL||A major risk factor for heart disease|
A healthy cholesterol range for you may depend on your age, family history, lifestyle, and other risk factors. In general, low LDL levels and high HDL cholesterol levels are good for heart health. High levels of triglycerides may also put you at risk for heart disease.
The LDL on your results may say “calculated” which means it includes a calculation of total cholesterol, HDL, and triglycerides. Your LDL level may also be measured “directly,” without using other measurements. Regardless, you want your LDL number to be low.
Learn more about laboratory tests, reference ranges, and understanding results.
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What Happens During A Cholesterol Test
A health care professional will take a blood sample from a vein in your arm, using a small needle. After the needle is inserted, a small amount of blood will be collected into a test tube or vial. You may feel a little sting when the needle goes in or out. This usually takes less than five minutes.
Cholesterol tests are usually done in the morning, as you may be asked to refrain from eating for several hours prior to the test.
You may also be able to use an at-home kit to test for cholesterol. While instructions may vary between brands, your kit will include some kind of device to prick your finger. Youll use this device to collect a drop of blood for testing. Be sure to follow the kit instructions carefully.
Also, be sure to tell your health care provider if your at-home test results shown your cholesterol level is higher than 200 mg/dl.
What To Expect During The Test
A cholesterol test is a simple blood test during which a technician will generally seat the person in a chair with a special armrest. The technician will then tie a rubber strip around the persons arm to try to find a suitable vein from which to draw blood.
After finding a vein, the technician will clean the area with alcohol, insert a needle attached to a tube into the persons vein, and allow the tube to fill.
When the tube is full of blood, the technician will remove the needle and hold gauze on the site of the puncture. The technician may ask the person to apply pressure for a few minutes to stop the bleeding, and they might apply a small bandage over the gauze.
At this point, the test is complete, and the person is usually free to go about their normal daily activities.
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What Are Normal Cholesterol Levels
The only way to know your cholesterol levels is through a blood test. You need to know your total cholesterol , as well as HDL and LDL. Triglycerides are another type of fat, related to, but different from cholesterol. High levels of triglycerides are also linked to heart disease. Here are what the numbers mean:
- Less than 200 is desirable
- Between 200 and 239 is borderline high
- From 240 up is considered high
- Less than 100 is optimal
- Between 100 and 129 is almost optimal
- Between 130 and 159 is borderline high
- Between 160 and 189 is considered high
- And 190 and above is deemed to be very high
- 60 and above is optimal
- Less than 40 for men is considered low
- Less than 50 for women is considered low
- Avoid full-fat dairy products. Instead, opt for skim milk, lower fat cheese, lower fat yogurt and trans-fat free spreads.
- Substitute heart healthy plant oils for butter and lard.
- Eat lean proteins: fish, skinless chicken, and lean meats. Avoid marbled meats and bacon.
- Body weight: Losing weight can help lower cholesterol. Regular exercise can increase HDL and lower LDL . Thirty minutes per day can have healthy benefits.
- Smoking: Dont do it.
- Age: As we all age, cholesterol rises.
- Gender: After menopause, women are at greater risk for higher cholesterol.
- Heredity : Your genes can determine how much cholesterol your liver produces.
- Diabetes: This disease can alter the balance of LDL and HDL cholesterol.
Getting A Cholesterol Test
We recommend that all adults should get a cholesterol check no matter what your age or how healthy you feel.
The only way to know your cholesterol levels is to get a check. High cholesterol doesn’t usually have any signs or symptoms and it can be caused by your genes as well as your lifestyle, so we advise getting a check even if you are young, fit and feel healthy.
A cholesterol check involves a simple blood test.
Your doctor should also check another blood fat called triglycerides, as these also affect your heart health.
A test will show you if you need to make healthy changes. High cholesterol can lead to heart attacks and strokes. A cholesterol test, along with other simple tests including a blood pressure test, BMI and waist measurement, will give you a good idea of your heart health and show you if you need to make any lifestyle changes or need treatment.
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How Do I Prepare For My Cholesterol Test
If your doctor recommends a “non-fasting” cholesterol test, the lab will look only at your total cholesterol numbers. For that test, you merely need to show up at the lab and have some blood drawn. If your doctor suggests a “fasting” cholesterol test , the lab will analyze your levels of LDL, HDL, triglycerides, and total cholesterol. For that test, you will need to fast nine to 12 hours before the blood test.
Sometimes a doctor will ask you to do a non-fasting cholesterol test first. Depending on the results, they may then send you back for the more complete lipid profile.
Cholesterol Testing And Results
Cholesterol is a soft, wax-like substance found in all parts of the body. Your body needs a little bit of cholesterol to work properly. But too much cholesterol can clog your arteries and lead to heart disease .
- Total cholesterol
- Low density lipoprotein
- High density lipoprotein
- Very low density lipoprotein
When Should You Be Tested?
- A strong family history of heart disease
- Every 5 years if your results were normal.
- More often for people with diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, or blood flow problems to the legs or feet.
- Every year or so if you are taking medicines to control high cholesterol.
Total CholesterolLDL Cholesterol
- You have diabetes and are between ages 40 and 75
- You have diabetes and a high risk of heart disease
- You have a medium or high risk of heart disease
- You have heart disease, history of a stroke, or poor circulation to your legs
Health care providers have traditionally set a target level for your LDL cholesterol if you are being treated with medicines to lower your cholesterol .
- Some newer guidelines now suggest that providers no longer need to target a specific number for your LDL cholesterol. Higher strength medicines are used for the highest risk patients.
- However, some guidelines still recommend using specific targets.
HDL CholesterolVLDL CholesterolConsiderations
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