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When running cardiovascular tests, your doctor will generally do a cholesterol test. To determine these numbers, the physician will order a lipid profile, a series of tests to measure HDL, LDL and total cholesterol and triglyceride levels. As with most cholesterol test, fasting is required for a lipid profile.
To check your cholesterol, a small sample of blood will be drawn from your arm and tested for levels of good (HDL) and bad (LDL) cholesterol. The triglycerides in your blood will also be measured.
What should my cholesterol be?
HDL- High Density Lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol is commonly known as the "good" cholesterol. Good cholesterol works to remove the bad (LDL) cholesterol from your blood and send it to the liver. Once at the liver, the LDL cholesterol is processed and removed from the body. HDL cholesterol levels above 40 mg/dL (milligrams per deciliter) are desirable. Measurements below 40 mg/dL point to less HDL in the blood and thus less ability to remove LDL cholesterol.
LDL- Low Density Lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol is often called "bad" cholesterol. This type of cholesterol is "sticky" and can adhere to arteries, causing blockages. Desirable levels of LDL cholesterol are 100mg/dL or lower, with levels above 160 mg/dL being at high risk for developing heart disease.
Total Cholesterol- Your total cholesterol number is important because it examines how much HDL (good) cholesterol you have in comparison to your total cholesterol level. Your optimum ratio (obtained by dividing total cholesterol by HDL cholesterol) is 3.5 (3.5:1). If you have a total cholesterol measurement of 175 mg/dL and an HDL of 50 mg/dL, you are in the desirable range. The upper limit of the desirable ratio is 5 (5:1). The American Heart Association has found, however, that the actual measurements for HDL and total cholesterol, not the ratio, are more helpful in planning a course of treatment for a patient with cholesterol issues.
Triglycerides- Triglycerides are the body's fat storage system. The body uses triglycerides in the blood to give the muscles energy. It stores the rest in the body's fatty tissue deposits. Normal adults have triglyceride levels of less than 150 mg/dL.