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Screening tests for cholesterol

Karen Miller | 4/14/2016, 5:31 p.m.
It is recommended that screening for cholesterol begin at age 20 and be repeated every three to five years. Those ...
The lipid panel tests for total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, HDL cholesterol and triglycerides. Thinkstock.com/istock/dina2001

It is recommended that screening for cholesterol begin at age 20 and be repeated every three to five years. Those of higher risk, such as those with diabetes, heart disease, stroke or a family history of high cholesterol, may get screened more frequently. However, schedules are tailored to a person’s particular circumstance.

The interpretation below may be different for those with heart disease or diabetes. Tests are measured in mg/dL.

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Results


Reading Interpretation
Total Cholesterol
Below 200
200-239
240 and above
Desirable
Borderline high
High
LDL Cholesterol
Below 100
100-129
130-159
160-189
190 and above
Optimal
Near optimal
Borderline high
High
Very high
HDL Cholesterol
Below 40
40-59
60 and above
Poor: a major risk for heart disease
Better
Best: considered protective against heart disease
Triglycerides
Below 150
150-199
200-499
500 and above
Desirable
Borderline high
High
Very high

Source: National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute

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A closer look


Total cholesterol does not always give an accurate picture of the extent of cholesterol in the body. It is more of a glimpse. For instance, it can include a higher LDL than desired. Some providers go a step further to determine risk for cardiovascular disease.

Test Acceptable results
Total cholesterol/HDL ratio
Below 5
Triglyceride/HDL ratio
Below 4
Non-HDL (Total cholesterol minus HDL)
130-159
HDL/LDL ratio Over 0.3

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