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 screen for risk of developing cardiovascular disease (heart disease, stroke and related diseases); to monitor treatment

When to Get Tested?

Aged 40 as part of a routine cardiovascular health check, or if you are already thought to be at risk of cardiovascular disease for another reason.

Sample Required?

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

Test Preparation Needed?

No fasting is needed for an HDL-cholesterol test. However, you should follow your doctor's advice as fasting might be needed for other tests being performed.

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 cholesterol carried on HDL particles in blood.

How is the sample collected for testing?

Testing for HDL cholesterol requires a blood sample. Most often, the blood sample is collected by venepuncture (using a needle to collect blood from a vein in the arm). Occasionally a fingerprick test can be used, although this is not commonly available in GP practices or hospitals in the UK.

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.

Is any test preparation needed to ensure the quality of the sample?

No fasting is needed for an HDL-cholesterol test. In the past, a full lipid profile (which includes HDL-cholesterol) would require fasting, but this changed in 2014. However, even the full lipid profile no longer requires fasting. On the other hand, there may be circumstances when fasting is still required, so you should follow instructions given by your doctor.

The Test

Common Questions

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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.