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Cholesterol Tests
What is it? Overview Usage Side Effects and Warnings

Cholesterol Tests Overview

Written by FoundHealth.


Cholesterol is a substance that is similar to fat. Cells need cholesterol. There are many types of cholesterol. When there is too much or too little of one type, problems can develop.

Cholesterol tests measure the levels of cholesterol in the blood. Different components of cholesterol can be measured:

  • Total cholesterol
  • HDL-cholesterol —the "good" cholesterol
  • LDL-cholesterol —the "bad" cholesterol
  • Triglycerides
  • Lipoprotein profile—measures all the above

Plaque Formation in Blood Vessel—Side Effect of High HDL Cholesterol
Plaque Formation in Blood Vessel—Side Effect of High HDL Cholesterol
© 2009 Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

What to Expect

Prior to Test

Steps to take before the test depend on the test you are having. For example:

  • Lipoprotein profile—You will need to not eat or drink for 9-12 hours before the test. Water is allowed during this time.
  • Total cholesterol test and total cholesterol test with HDL measurement—You do not need to fast.

Description of Test

You will roll up your sleeve. An elastic band will be wrapped around your upper arm. An area on your arm will be cleaned with alcohol. The needle will then be inserted into your arm vein. A small amount of blood will be drawn into a tube. The needle will be removed. Pressure will be applied to the puncture site. A small bandage may be placed on the site. Your blood will be sent to a lab for testing.

After Test

You will be able to leave after the test is done. When you arrive home:

  • Go back to your regular diet.
  • If told to do so by your doctor, take your medicines as usual.
  • If you have an area of bruising, apply pressure to the area. Use a piece of cotton under the bandage.

How Long Will It Take?

A few minutes

Will It Hurt?

It may hurt slightly when the needle is inserted.


Depending on your results, your doctor may choose to have more testing done.



American Heart Association

National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute


Alberta Health and Wellness

Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada


Akosah KO, Schaper A, Cogbill C, Schoenfeld P. Preventing myocardial infarction in the young adult in the first place: how do the National Cholesterol Education Panel III guidelines perform? J Am Coll Cardiol. 2003;41:1475-1479.

Illustrated Guide to Diagnostic Tests. Springhouse, PA: Springhouse Corporation; 2001.

Law MR, Wald NJ. Risk factor thresholds: their existence under scrutiny. Br Med J. 2002;324:1570-1576.

What is cholesterol? National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute website. Available at: . Updated September 2008. Accessed January 26, 2008.



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