Cholesterol and triglyceride tests are blood tests that
measure the total amount of fatty substances (cholesterol and
triglycerides) in the blood.
travels through the blood attached to a
protein. This cholesterol-protein package is called a
lipoprotein. Lipoprotein analysis (lipoprotein profile or lipid profile)
measures blood levels of
HDL cholesterol, and triglycerides.
Health Tools help you make wise health decisions or take action to improve your health.
Cholesterol and triglyceride testing is
Some health organizations recommend that everyone older than
age 20 be checked for
high cholesterol.1 Other organizations recommend cholesterol tests based on age and risk factors for heart disease.2
Talk to your doctor about when you should get a cholesterol test.
For more information, see When to Have a Cholesterol Test.
Preparation may depend on the type of test you are having. You may or may not have to fast.
Many medicines may affect the results of this
test. Be sure to tell your doctor about all the nonprescription
and prescription medicines and herbs or natural substances you take.
Tell your doctor if you have had a test such as a thyroid or
bone scan that uses a radioactive substance within the last 7 days.
Talk to your doctor about any concerns you have regarding
the need for the test, its risks, how it will be done, or what the results will
mean. To help you understand the importance of this test, fill out the
medical test information form(What is a PDF document?).
The health professional taking a sample
of your blood will:
The blood sample is taken from a vein in
your arm. An elastic band is wrapped around your upper arm. It may feel tight.
You may feel nothing at all from the needle, or you may feel a quick sting or
There is very little chance of a problem from
having a blood sample taken from a vein.
Cholesterol and triglyceride tests are
blood tests that measure the total amount of fatty substances (cholesterol and
triglycerides) in the blood.
usually available within 24 hours.
In the coming months, doctors will shift how they treat high cholesterol. This change is based on new cholesterol treatment guidelines from the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association. Your doctor will consider your overall health in recommending treatment. The goal is to lower your risk of a heart attack or stroke, not to reach a certain cholesterol number. It is important to talk to your doctor at your next visit about what your risk is and what treatment is best for you.
This topic will be updated soon with the new guidelines.
The values listed here are for adult cholesterol levels.1 Desirable cholesterol and triglyceride levels are slightly different for children and teens. For more information, see Cholesterol in Children and Teens.
Many conditions can affect cholesterol and triglyceride
levels. Your doctor will talk with you about any abnormal results
that may be related to your other health problems.
Reasons you may not be able to
have the test or why the results may not be helpful include:
Grundy S, et al. (2002). Third Report of the National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP) Expert Panel on Detection, Evaluation, and Treatment of High Blood Cholesterol in Adults (Adult Treatment Panel III) (NIH Publication No. 02–5215). Bethesda, MD: National
Institutes of Health. Also available online:
U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (2008). Screening for lipid disorders in adults. Available online: http://www.uspreventiveservicestaskforce.org/uspstf/uspschol.htm.
Other Works Consulted
Chernecky CC, Berger BJ (2013). Laboratory Tests and Diagnostic Procedures, 6th ed. St. Louis: Saunders.
Fischbach FT, Dunning MB III, eds. (2009).
Manual of Laboratory and Diagnostic Tests, 8th ed.
Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins.
Grundy SM, et al. (2004). Implications of recent
clinical trials of the National Cholesterol Education Program Adult Treatment
Panel III Guidelines. Circulation, 110(2): 227–239.
[Erratum in Circulation, 110(6): 763.]
Miller M, et al. (2011). Triglycerides and cardiovascular disease: A scientific statement from the American Heart Association. Circulation, 123(20): 2292–2333.
November 15, 2013
E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
& Rakesh K. Pai, MD, FACC - Cardiology, Electrophysiology
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.
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