Accessible Search Form           Advanced Search

  • PRINT PAGE  |  PRINT ENTIRE TOPIC  |  SHARE

How Is High Blood Cholesterol Diagnosed?

Your doctor will diagnose high blood cholesterol by checking the cholesterol levels in your blood. A blood test called a lipoprotein panel can measure your cholesterol levels. Before the test, you’ll need to fast (not eat or drink anything but water) for 9 to 12 hours.

The lipoprotein panel will give your doctor information about your:

  • Total cholesterol. Total cholesterol is a measure of the total amount of cholesterol in your blood, including low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol and high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol.
  • LDL cholesterol. LDL, or “bad,” cholesterol is the main source of cholesterol buildup and blockages in the arteries.
  • HDL cholesterol. HDL, or “good,” cholesterol helps remove cholesterol from your arteries.
  • Triglycerides (tri-GLIH-seh-rides). Triglycerides are a type of fat found in your blood. Some studies suggest that a high level of triglycerides in the blood may raise the risk of coronary heart disease, especially in women.

If it’s not possible to have a lipoprotein panel, knowing your total cholesterol and HDL cholesterol can give you a general idea about your cholesterol levels.

Testing for total and HDL cholesterol does not require fasting. If your total cholesterol is 200 mg/dL or more, or if your HDL cholesterol is less than 40 mg/dL, your doctor will likely recommend that you have a lipoprotein panel. (Cholesterol is measured as milligrams (mg) of cholesterol per deciliter (dL) of blood.)

The tables below show total, LDL, and HDL cholesterol levels and their corresponding categories. See how your cholesterol numbers compare to the numbers in the tables below.

Total Cholesterol LevelTotal Cholesterol Category
Less than 200 mg/dLDesirable
200–239 mg/dLBorderline high
240 mg/dL and higherHigh

LDL Cholesterol LevelLDL Cholesterol Category
Less than 100 mg/dLOptimal
100–129 mg/dLNear optimal/above optimal
130–159 mg/dLBorderline high
160–189 mg/dLHigh
190 mg/dL and higherVery high

HDL Cholesterol LevelHDL Cholesterol Category
Less than 40 mg/dLA major risk factor for heart disease
40–59 mg/dLThe higher, the better
60 mg/dL and higherConsidered protective against heart disease

Triglycerides also can raise your risk for heart disease. If your triglyceride level is borderline high (150–199 mg/dL) or high (200 mg/dL or higher), you may need treatment.

Factors that can raise your triglyceride level include:

  • Overweight and obesity
  • Lack of physical activity
  • Cigarette smoking
  • Excessive alcohol use
  • A very high carbohydrate diet
  • Certain diseases and medicines
  • Some genetic disorders 
Rate This Content:

  
previous topic next topic

Featured Video


The NHLBI "Grand Opportunity" Exome Sequencing Project

High Blood Cholesterol Clinical Trials

Clinical trials are research studies that explore whether a medical strategy, treatment, or device is safe and effective for humans. To find clinical trials that are currently underway for High Blood Cholesterol, visit www.clinicaltrials.gov.


The Heart Truth Logo

The Heart Truth®—a national heart disease awareness campaign for women—is sponsored by the NHLBI. The campaign's goal is to give women a personal and urgent wakeup call about their risk for heart disease. 

Every woman has a story to tell and the power to take action to protect her heart health. Share your story with other women on Facebook.

The Heart Truth campaign offers a variety of public health resources to help educate women and health professionals about women’s heart disease. 

Learn more about key campaign events, activities, and resources at www.hearttruth.gov.


 
September 19, 2012 Last Updated Icon

The NHLBI updates Health Topics articles on a biennial cycle based on a thorough review of research findings and new literature. The articles also are updated as needed if important new research is published. The date on each Health Topics article reflects when the content was originally posted or last revised.