How Are Cholesterol Levels Measured?


Quick Answer

A blood test is used to measure cholesterol levels. This test can indicate the total amount of cholesterol in the blood, including low density and very low density lipoproteins, high-density lipoproteins and triglycerides, explains Healthline and About.com.

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How Are Cholesterol Levels Measured?
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Full Answer

A blood test used to measure cholesterol levels is generally performed as an outpatient procedure at a diagnostic lab. The test is relatively painless, quickly completed and has few associated risks. A physician may ask that a patient discontinue taking medications that could affect cholesterol levels a few days before the test, according to Healthline. The test is usually completed in the morning, as it may require that a patient fast the night before.

If only total cholesterol and high density lipoproteins are being measured, a patient is permitted to eat before the test. A patient should not drink or eat nine to 12 hours before having a blood test that measures a complete lipid profile. A complete lipid profile indicates the amounts of each type of lipid in the blood.

Cholesterol is measured in milligrams per decimeter of blood. Cholesterol levels that are outside a normal range may indicate that a person has a higher risk for atherosclerosis, stroke or heart disease. A lower level of each of the low density lipoproteins, triglycerides and total cholesterol is considered better, whereas a higher level of high density lipoproteins is considered better, states Healthline.

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