How a Cholesterol Test Works
Most doctors are only concerned if your cholesterol is above
Hi, I'm Page Love. I'm a registered dietitian and I'm here to tell you about cholesterol tests for About.com.Often, many of us are tempted to find out what our cholesterol is, particularly if we have a family history of heart disease. A cholesterol test is something you can either go into your doctor's office and have a vial of blood drawn and have analyzed by a lab, or now there are convenient home tests that can give you a simple, total cholesterol level.So these tests are blood tests that can interpret your risk for heart disease and, basically, tell you the amount of cholesterol that you have floating around in your bloodstream. We now know there are standardized levels that are appropriate to determine risk for disease. For example, if your home cholesterol test shows you that you are above 200 milligrams in cholesterol, you're just breaking into the low range for an above normal cholesterol test. Most doctors are only concerned if you have a cholesterol above 240 milligrams and that would be when you really want to start reducing the cholesterol in your diet and watching the high cholesterol foods in your diet.When you go to your doctor's office, however, they can give you a more detailed test. They can give you a breakdown of several different types of cholesterol in your blood and there are really three main types. You have the total cholesterol that I was just mentioning that the home test will show you; you have your HDL, your "good" cholesterol that, even if you have a high cholesterol, if your HDL cholesterol is good, for example, above 60 milligrams, it's almost like that's a cleaning up molecule going around and helping to lower your overall cholesterol and excrete it out of the body.The LDL cholesterol, on the other hand, the low density lipoprotein, is the bad cholesterol. And if that is additionally high along with a high cholesterol, if that number is above 100 milligrams, then we also want to specifically look at your diet. That seems to be more representative of dietary intake of cholesterol being high. And then additionally, you can look at triglycerides. That's one additional measure that looks at total fat in the diet but it's also affected by things that are stored as fat like your simple sugar intake and your alcohol intake.So if you are really concerned about your full risk profile for heart disease in looking at a blood test for cholesterol, going to your doctor's office will give you the most definitive results that will look at good and bad cholesterol and look beyond a simple total number that a home test will give you.Thanks for watching. For more information, visit About.com.