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Cholesterol and lipid tests

A cholesterol (or lipid profile) test looks at the various levels of cholesterol and other fats in your blood. Understanding their levels in the blood can help predict people at risk of heart disease and stroke.

What is being tested?

The lipid profile includes total cholesterol, HDL-cholesterol (often called good cholesterol), LDL-cholesterol (often called bad cholesterol), and triglycerides.

Lipids and cholesterol are fat-like substances in the blood and some are necessary for good health. However, if you have a high level of LDL-cholesterol and triglycerides, then you have an increased risk of heart disease.

Why would I need this test?

You might need this test if your doctor wants to assess your risk of developing heart disease. It is usually recommended for people who are over 45 or who have high blood pressure or diabetes.

If you already have heart disease, or have problems with your cholesterol and triglycerides, then you will probably have these tests regularly to monitor the levels of these substances in your blood. If your levels of cholesterol and lipids go down, then your risk of having a heart attack goes down.

How to prepare for this test

You will need to fast (not have any food and only drink water) for between nine and 12 hours before having this test. Most people have the test in the morning so it doesn't interfere with their day and their meals. Talk to your doctor about any medications you take.

Understanding your results

While the levels of total cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and triglycerides are important, they must also be considered along with your specific risk factors for heart disease such as your age or blood pressure.

There are specific guidelines for target cholesterol levels in different people – talk to your doctor about this.

If your HDL levels are low and your LDL levels are high, your doctor will likely talk with you about how to change these and reduce your risk of heart disease. These might include:

Your doctor might suggest medication to help keep your cholesterol in the healthy range. If you are on such medication, you might need regular cholesterol tests to check that they are working well and that you are taking the right dose.

More information

See Lab Tests Online for more information about testing cholesterol and lipids.

About blood testing

Visit our ‘Guide to blood testing’ to learn more about blood tests in general with information such as:

  • what to consider before having the test
  • what happens during a blood test
  • results accuracy
  • blood tests cost.

Last reviewed: September 2016

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

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LDL cholesterol - Lab Tests Online AU

As part of a regular examination with a total cholesterol test or lipid profile or if your total cholesterol is high

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Cholesterol tests -

Abnormally high cholesterol levels may not give you any symptoms, so a blood test is the best way to check whether you have high cholesterol.

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HDL cholesterol - Lab Tests Online AU

If this test is being performed as part of a complete lipid profile then fasting for about 12 hours is required, only water is permitted.

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Lipid profile - Lab Tests Online AU

The lipid profile is a group of tests that are often requested together to determine risk of coronary heart disease. The tests that make up a lipid profile are tests that have been shown to be good indicators of whether someone is likely to have a heart attack or stroke caused by blockage of blood vessels (hardening of the arteries).

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Triglycerides - Lab Tests Online AU

As part of a lipid profile during a medical examination or if you are being treated for high triglycerides

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Cholesterol - Lab Tests Online AU

If you areless than45 years old and have risk factors which put you at an increased risk of developing heart disease, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, chronic renal failure or renal transplantation, Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander, overweight or you are a smoker

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LDL cholesterol, direct - Lab Tests Online AU

To help determine your risk of developing heart disease and to monitor lipid-lowering lifestyle changes and drug therapies; to accurately determine your low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) level when you are not fasting

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Triglycerides -

Triglycerides are the main form of fat stored in the body. Many Australians, especially those carrying too much weight around their waist, have raised triglyceride levels, which is a bad thing.

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The ins and outs of cholesterol Dietitians Association of Australia

The ins and outs of cholesterol High levels of the wrong kinds of cholesterol in the blood may increase the risk of developing heart disease

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High cholesterol levels in children can be due to certain eating patterns and genetic factors. Find out about testing and treatment.

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