Top of the page
Cholesterol and triglyceride tests are blood tests that measure lipids—fats and fatty substances used as a source of energy by your body. Lipids are found in your blood and are stored in tissues. They are an important part of cells, and they help keep your body working normally. Lipids include cholesterol, triglycerides, high-density lipoprotein (HDL), and low-density lipoprotein (LDL).
Cholesterol and triglyceride tests measure:
Other measurements that may be done include:
Your doctor may order these tests as part of a regular health examination. Your doctor may use the results to prevent, check on, or diagnose a medical condition. The results help your doctor check your risk of heart attack and stroke.
Follow your doctor's instructions on how to prepare for these tests. Your doctor may ask you to not eat or drink anything except water for 9 to 14 hours before your blood test. In most cases, you are allowed to take your medicines with water the morning of the test. Fasting is not always needed, but it may be recommended. Do not drink alcohol for 24 hours before the test.
Cholesterol and triglyceride testing is done:
Your cholesterol levels can help your doctor find out your risk for having a heart attack or stroke.
But it's not just about your cholesterol. Your doctor uses your cholesterol levels plus other things to calculate your risk. These include:
A health professional uses a needle to take a blood sample, usually from the arm.
When a blood sample is taken, you may feel nothing at all from the needle. Or you might feel a quick sting or pinch.
There is very little chance of having a problem from this test. When a blood sample is taken, a small bruise may form at the site.
Resultsfootnote 1, footnote 2 are usually available within 24 hours.
If your LDL cholesterol is 4.5 mmol/L or more, it might mean that you have a familial lipid disorder.footnote 3
Here are general facts about cholesterol and triglyceride levels (they may not all apply to you):
For children and teens, test results are slightly different than for adults.
CitationsGrundy S, et al. (2002). Third Report of the National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP) Expert Panel on Detection, Evaluation, and Treatment of High Blood Cholesterol in Adults (Adult Treatment Panel III) (NIH Publication No. 02–5215). Bethesda, MD: National Institutes of Health. Also available online: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/guidelines/cholesterol/atp3full.pdf.Grundy SM, et al. (2004). Implications of recent clinical trials of the National Cholesterol Education Program Adult Treatment Panel III Guidelines. Circulation, 110(2): 227–239. [Erratum in Circulation, 110(6): 763.]Brunham LR, et al. (2018). Canadian Cardiovascular Society position statement on familial hypercholesterolemia: Update 2018. Canadian Journal of Cardiology, 34(12): 1553-–1563. DOI: 10.1016/j.cjca.2018.09.005. Accessed December 10, 2018.
Adaptation Date: 3/21/2022
Adapted By: Alberta Health Services
Adaptation Reviewed By: Alberta Health Services
To learn more about Healthwise, visit Healthwise.org.
© 1995-2022 Healthwise, Incorporated. All rights reserved. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.