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HDL Cholesterol

Does this test have other names?

High-density lipoprotein cholesterol

What is this test?

An HDL cholesterol test measures the amount of high-density lipoprotein ("good") cholesterol in your blood. High HDL levels may lower your risk for heart disease.

Why do I need this test?

You may have this test to find out your risk for heart disease.

What other tests might I have along with this test?

An HDL test is often done as part of a comprehensive lipid panel to get a complete picture of your cholesterol and blood fat levels. Low-density lipoprotein ("bad") cholesterol, triglycerides, and very-low density lipoproteins are among the other lipids your health care provider may want to measure. 

What do my test results mean?

Many things may affect your lab test results. These include the method each lab uses to do the test. Even if your test results are different from the normal value, you may not have a problem. To learn what the results mean for you, talk with your health care provider.

The normal ranges for HDL cholesterol are:

  • 45 to 70 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) for men

  • 50 to 90 mg/dL for women

If the test reveals that your HDL levels are lower than normal, this may suggest you have a higher risk of developing heart disease. The Framingham Heart Study found that for every 5 mg/dL your HDL levels dip below the median range, your risk for heart attack rises by 25 percent.

If your HDL level is higher than the normal range, this is good news: HDL helps rid your system of LDL. It helps protect against heart problems such as atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries.

How is this test done?

The test requires a blood sample, which is drawn through a needle from a vein in your arm.

Does this test pose any risks?

Taking a blood sample with a needle carries risks that include bleeding, infection, bruising, or feeling dizzy. When the needle pricks your arm, you may feel a slight stinging sensation or pain. Afterward, the site may be slightly sore. 

What might affect my test results?

Having a preexisting condition, like diabetes, or taking certain medications can affect the results of an HDL test. 

How do I get ready for this test?

Ask your physician how you should prepare for this test. You don't usually need to prepare for an HDL test, but if you're having a complete lipid panel, you will probably have to fast and avoid exercising for 12 hours before having the test.  

Be sure your doctor knows about all medicines, herbs, vitamins, and supplements you are taking. This includes medicines that don't need a prescription and any illicit drugs you may use.