Diagnosis

A blood test to check cholesterol levels — called a lipid panel or lipid profile — typically reports:

  • Total cholesterol
  • LDL cholesterol
  • HDL cholesterol
  • Triglycerides — a type of fat in the blood

For the most accurate measurements, don't eat or drink anything (other than water) for nine to 12 hours before the blood sample is taken.

Interpreting the numbers

In the United States, cholesterol levels are measured in milligrams (mg) of cholesterol per deciliter (dL) of blood. In Canada and many European countries, cholesterol levels are measured in millimoles per liter (mmol/L). To interpret your test results, use these general guidelines.

Total cholesterol (U.S. and some other countries) Total cholesterol* (Canada and most of Europe)
Below 200 mg/dL Below 5.2 mmol/L Desirable
200-239 mg/dL 5.2-6.2 mmol/L Borderline high
240 mg/dL and above Above 6.2 mmol/L High
LDL cholesterol (U.S. and some other countries) LDL cholesterol* (Canada and most of Europe)
Below 70 mg/dL Below 1.8 mmol/L Best for people who have heart disease or diabetes.
Below 100 mg/dL Below 2.6 mmol/L Optimal for people at risk of heart disease.
100-129 mg/dL 2.6-3.3 mmol/L Near optimal if there is no heart disease. High if there is heart disease.
130-159 mg/dL 3.4-4.1 mmol/L Borderline high if there is no heart disease. High if there is heart disease.
160-189 mg/dL 4.1-4.9 mmol/L High if there is no heart disease. Very high if there is heart disease.
190 mg/dL and above Above 4.9 mmol/L Very high
HDL cholesterol (U.S. and some other countries) HDL cholesterol* (Canada and most of Europe)
Below 40 mg/dL (men)
Below 50 mg/dL (women)
Below 1 mmol/L (men)
Below 1.3 mmol/L (women)
Poor
50-59 mg/dL 1.3-1.5 mmol/L Better
60 mg/dL and above Above 1.5 mmol/L Best
Triglycerides (U.S. and some other countries) Triglycerides* (Canada and most of Europe)
*Canadian and European guidelines differ slightly from U.S. guidelines. These conversions are based on U.S. guidelines.
Below 150 mg/dL Below 1.7 mmol/L Desirable
150-199 mg/dL 1.7-2.2 mmol/L Borderline high
200-499 mg/dL 2.3-5.6 mmol/L High
500 mg/dL and above Above 5.6 mmol/L Very high

Children and cholesterol testing

For most children, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute recommends one cholesterol screening test between the ages of 9 and 11, and another cholesterol screening test between the ages of 17 and 21.

Cholesterol testing is usually avoided between the ages of 12 and 16 because false-negative results are more likely within this age group.

If your child has a family history of early-onset heart disease or a personal history of obesity or diabetes, your doctor may recommend earlier or more frequent cholesterol testing.