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Cholesterol Test: Procedure and Results

Medically reviewed by Elfred Landas, MD · General Practitioner · Maxicare Primary Care Center

Written by Mayvilyn Cabigao · Updated Jan 04, 2021

Cholesterol Test: Procedure and Results

The Philippines is known for its grand, food-centric events like fiestas and birthday celebrations. Unfortunately, one of the rising health concerns of Filipinos is high cholesterol. A cholesterol test must be administered to address this health problem. But what is a cholesterol test for? What do cholesterol test results mean? Let’s find out.

What is a cholesterol test for?

High cholesterol often shows no symptoms. Thus, getting a complete cholesterol test (also known as a lipid panel or lipid profile test) helps measure the levels of cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood.

This test will help determine if a person is at risk of high cholesterol complications like heart disease, stroke, and chronic kidney disease. A complete cholesterol test quantifies the following:

  • High-density lipoprotein (HDL). Also known as “good” cholesterol, HDL gets rid of the “bad” cholesterol or LDL to prevent clogging in the arteries.
  • Low-density lipoprotein (LDL). Commonly called “bad” cholesterol, LDL (in high amounts) can cause blockage in the arteries and lead to heart attack and stroke.
  • Total cholesterol. It is the total amount of HDL and LDL cholesterols combined.
  • Triglycerides. It is a common type of fat in the blood that comes from oils and other fats you consume. Most often, those who have high triglycerides are people with diabetes or are overweight, eat too many sweet treats, and/or drink too much alcohol.

Who needs it?

You must undergo a complete cholesterol test if you experience the following risk factors:

Usually, doctors recommend that patients take a complete cholesterol check every five years by the time they reach 18 years of age.

Can You Be Thin and Have High Cholesterol?

How do you prepare for a cholesterol test?

If you are getting a complete cholesterol test, your physician will usually ask you to fast (to go without food or drinks) for eight to twelve hours before the blood test. However, if you’re undergoing a non-fasting cholesterol test, then you can eat or drink before the procedure.

What is the procedure for a cholesterol test?

Since a cholesterol test is a blood test, you will need to give a blood sample. Also, it is usually performed in the morning as it requires you to fast the evening before blood extraction.

When performing a blood test, blood must be drawn from a vein in the arm. Your local GP, a nurse, or a lab technician will begin the procedure by placing a tourniquet around your upper arm. After this, they will disinfect the puncture site using a piece of cotton soaked in 70% isopropyl alcohol. Once the puncture site is ready, a needle will be inserted to draw blood from the vein.

Your medical provider will then remove the tourniquet to restore blood circulation and to get enough blood samples. After collecting the blood and putting a bandage on the puncture site, the technician will transport the blood to the laboratory for analysis.

Usually, results come out within 24 hours. After the procedure, some might feel soreness or pain on the puncture site, but it will go away after a few hours. Also, you can have your first meal or drink after the test if you’ve been fasting.

What do the cholesterol test results mean?

Cholesterol is measured in milligrams (mg) of cholesterol per deciliter (dL) of blood or mgdL. The result of the cholesterol test will determine whether you have high, low, or normal cholesterol levels. Here’s how to interpret the numbers:

High-density lipoprotein (HDL)

  • 60 mg/dL and higher – low risk of cardiovascular diseases
  • 40 to 59 mg/dL – Normal
  • Less than 40 mg/dL – major risk of cardiovascular diseases
  • Low-density lipoprotein (LDL)

    • Less than 70 mg/dL – Best
    • Below 100 mg/dL – Optimal
    • 100 to 129 mg/dL – Near optimal or above optimal
    • 130 to 159 mg/dL – Borderline high
    • 160 to 189 mg/dL – High
    • 190 mg/dL and above – Very high
    • Total Cholesterol

      • Less than 200 mg/dL – Desirable
      • 200 to 239 mg/dL – High
      • 240 mg/dL and above – Very high


      • Below 150 mg/dL – Desirable
      • 150 to 199 mg/dL – Borderline high
      • 200 to 499 mg/dL – High
      • 500 mg/dL and above – Very high
      • What do cholesterol test results mean? Low LDL cholesterol and high HDL cholesterol are very beneficial for your heart health. It also means that you have a lower risk of developing heart complications due to high cholesterol.

        On the other hand, if you have high LDL cholesterol and triglycerides, as well as low HDL cholesterol,  you are at a significant risk of acquiring heart complications such as atherosclerosis and heart disease. If the test results say that you may be a candidate for diabetes, your physician might advise you to undergo a blood glucose test.

        what is a cholesterol test for and what do cholesterol test results mean

        Key takeaways

        A cholesterol test is important because it can show if a person is vulnerable to certain heart complications. Since high cholesterol does not exhibit noticeable symptoms, a test will be helpful for an early diagnosis.

        High cholesterol complications will not appear soon after the diagnosis. It might take months or even years before a person can experience small changes in their health. That is why getting your cholesterol checked as soon as possible helps protect your heart from future damage.

        Learn more about High Cholesterol, here.


        Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

        Medically reviewed by

        Elfred Landas, MD

        General Practitioner · Maxicare Primary Care Center

        Written by Mayvilyn Cabigao · Updated Jan 04, 2021

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