HDL Cholesterol Test

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Also known as: HDL; HDL-C; "good" cholesterol
Formal name: High-density lipoprotein cholesterol

At a Glance

Why Get Tested?

To find out the risk of developing heart disease

When to Get Tested?

As part of a health check with a cholesterol test or lipid profile particularly if you:

  • have a family history of cholesterol disorders
  • have a family history of heart attacks, especially at a young age
  • are overweight
  • have diabetes
  • have thick yellow patches (xanthelasmata) around your eyes or elsewhere on your skin (xanthomata)
  • have high blood pressure
  • have had acute inflammation of the pancreas (acute pancreatitis)
  • are a smoker
  • Sample Required?

    A blood sample taken from a vein in the arm or from a finger-prick

    The Test Sample

    What is being tested?

    HDL is one of the classes of lipoproteins that carry cholesterol in the blood. HDL is thought to be beneficial because it removes excess cholesterol from tissues and carries it to the liver for disposal. Hence HDL cholesterol is often called “good” cholesterol. The test for HDL measures the amount of HDL-cholesterol in blood.

    How is the sample collected for testing?

    The test for HDL-cholesterol uses a blood sample. Most often the blood sample is collected from a vein. Sometimes HDL-cholesterol is measured using a drop of blood collected by puncturing the skin on a finger. A finger-prick sample is typically used when HDL-cholesterol is being measured on a portable testing device. Since this test is usually performed as part of a full lipid profile, fasting for 12 hours may be required.

    NOTE: If undergoing medical tests makes you or someone you care for anxious, embarrassed, or even difficult to manage, you might consider reading one or more of the following articles: Coping with Test Pain, Discomfort, and Anxiety, Tips on Blood Testing, Tips to Help Children through Their Medical Tests, and Tips to Help the Elderly through Their Medical Tests.

    Another article, Follow That Sample, provides a glimpse at the collection and processing of a blood sample and throat culture.

    The Test

    Common Questions

    Ask a Laboratory Scientist

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    NOTE: This article is based on research that utilizes the sources cited here as well as the collective experience of the Lab Tests Online Editorial Review Board. This article is periodically reviewed by the Editorial Board and may be updated as a result of the review. Any new sources cited will be added to the list and distinguished from the original sources used.