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Cholesterol Tests

Cholesterol Tests Overview

What is cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a waxy, fatlike substance that is naturally present in the cell membranes of the body. The body uses cholesterol to produce many hormones including vitamin D and the bile acids that help to digest fat. The body requires only small amounts of cholesterol to function normally, and excess amounts may be deposited in artery walls throughout the body. This can lead to narrowing of the coronary arteries in the heart, causing angina and heart attack; narrowing in the carotid arteries that supply the brain, causing stroke; and narrowing of the femoral arteries supplying the legs, causing peripheral artery disease.

What does a cholesterol test measure?

Fasting blood tests can measure cholesterol and triglyceride levels in the blood. This test, also called a lipoprotein profile or lipoprotein analysis, measures:

  • total cholesterol (the total amount of cholesterol in your blood)
  • HDL, high density lipoprotein (good cholesterol)
  • LDL, low density lipoprotein (bad cholesterol)
  • triglycerides, another fatty substance found in the body.

Blood cholesterol measurements can be used to help minimize the risk of stroke, heart attack, and peripheral artery disease. The cholesterol level is one of the many risk factors that can be controlled.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 7/22/2014

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