Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

beginning of content

Cholesterol and lipid tests

3-minute read

A cholesterol (or lipid profile) test looks at the various levels of cholesterol and other fats in the blood.

Lipids and cholesterol are fat-like substances in the body. If you have high levels of these fats, you are more at risk of a heart attack or stroke.

The test is one way of seeing if you are at risk and how you should be treated.

What is being tested?

The test measures different things:

  • The total amount of cholesterol in the blood
  • The level of HDL-cholesterol (often called good cholesterol)
  • The level of LDL-cholesterol (often called bad cholesterol)
  • Triglycerides (another type of fat in the body)

If you have a high level of LDL-cholesterol and triglycerides, then you have an increased risk of heart disease and stroke.

If your levels of cholesterol and lipids go down, then your risk goes down too.

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 every 5 years for people who are over 45 (or 35 if you are Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander). If you have other risk factors for heart disease such as high blood pressure or diabetes, you will need the lipid test more regularly.

ARE YOU AT RISK? — Are you at risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease or kidney disease? Use the Risk Checker to find out.

How to prepare for this test

You will usually need to fast (not have any food and only drink water) for between 8 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

Cholesterol and lipid levels are just one thing that’s taken into account when working out your risk of heart disease and stroke. Your doctor will also look at other things such as your age or blood pressure to calculate your risk.

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, or your total cholesterol level is high, your doctor will likely talk with you about how to to lower cholesterol 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 Pathology Tests Explained 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

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: August 2020

Back To Top

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Top results

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.

Read more on myDr website

Cholesterol - Pathology Tests Explained

Why and when to get tested for cholesterol

Read more on Pathology Tests Explained website

LDL cholesterol - Pathology Tests Explained

Why and when to get tested for LDL cholesterol

Read more on Pathology Tests Explained website

Blood cholesterol | Heart Foundation

Understanding what blood cholesterol is and how to control it can help you reduce your risk of heart disease and other serious conditions.

Read more on Heart Foundation website

Triglycerides (fasting or random) - Pathology Tests Explained

Why and when to get tested for triglycerides

Read more on Pathology Tests Explained website

Lipid Profile - Pathology Tests Explained

The lipid profile is a group of tests that are often requested together to determine risk of developing cardiovascular disease (heart disease, stroke and related diseases); and to monitor the treatment of conditions that  can cause blockage of blood vessels (atherschlerosis, sometimes known as “hardening of the arteries”).

Read more on Pathology Tests Explained website

HDL cholesterol - Pathology Tests Explained

Why and when to get tested for HDL cholesterol

Read more on Pathology Tests Explained website

LDL cholesterol, direct - Pathology Tests Explained

Why and when to get tested for direct LDL C

Read more on Pathology Tests Explained website

From cradle to grave: five pathology tests you will likely have through your life | Know Pathology Know Healthcare

What are five pathology tests you're likely to have in your life

Read more on Know Pathology Know Healthcare website

Amniocentesis: what you need to know -

Amniocentesis is a test that can be done in pregnancy. It is possible to tell from the test whether the fetus has certain birth defects.

Read more on myDr website

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information and advice

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Victorian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo

Healthdirect Australia acknowledges the Traditional Owners of Country throughout Australia and their continuing connection to land, sea and community. We pay our respects to the Traditional Owners and to Elders both past and present.