Contributed by – Preksha Buttan
What is the HDL cholesterol test?
The HDL cholesterol test aims at measuring the levels of HDL in the blood. HDL is one of the members of the cholesterol family. Others are LDL cholesterol and triglycerides. While LDL and triglycerides are considered to be the bad members as having high levels of them in the blood is directly linked with a higher risk of cardiovascular diseases, HDL is the good guy as it helps in the removal of LDL and triglycerides.
Who should get tested?
HDL test is often ordered as a part of a complete cholesterol test or lipid profile test wherein LDL and triglyceride tests are also included. Your doctor may order this test as a part of routine screening to determine your risk of developing cardiovascular diseases or as a follow-up test in case your previous results showed high levels.
This test may also be ordered in case you are at risk of developing heart diseases. The following factors determine your risk:
- Being diabetic
- Having a family history of heart diseases
- Having high blood pressure
- Men over the age of 45 yrs
- Women over the age of 55 yrs
- Use of tobacco
- Having a history of heart attack
Why is the HDL cholesterol test needed?
Cholesterol is a waxy substance found in the cells of the body and is responsible for various bodily functions including helping the body to build cells. It travels in the bloodstream by attaching to proteins called lipoproteins. Therefore, having it in healthy amounts is crucial. But, due to many factors, including diet and lifestyle, cholesterol levels reach unhealthy levels which are associated with the development of cardiovascular diseases.
If you have higher levels of LDL, then that would cause a buildup of cholesterol in your arteries. As a result, they will become narrow, blood flow to the heart would be hindered and the risk of cardiovascular diseases would increase.
However, high levels of HDL are preferred as HDL takes the LDL and triglycerides and returns them to the liver for processing. The liver breaks them down, turns them into bile and removes them from the body. This still doesn’t mean that you should have too much HDL in your blood as that is also not healthy.
Therefore, cholesterol tests are often used to routinely monitor these levels in the body or to check the effectiveness of treatment and lifestyle changes recommended to reduce cholesterol levels.
What does HDL cholesterol test results mean?
The HDL cholesterol test results depend on a number of factors, including the method used by the lab for testing. Nevertheless, for your reference, optimal levels of HDL cholesterol are considered to be 60 mg/dL. Anything below 40 mg/dL for men and below 50 mg/dL for women indicates a higher risk of heart diseases.
Considering that your age, overall health, and method used by the lab for testing can potentially influence your results, make sure that you get your HDL test results evaluated by a doctor to accurately understand what they mean for you.
How is the test done?
You might have to fast for several hours before the HDL test. Your doctor will give you complete instructions about it. Other than that, no other kind of preparation is needed. It’s a simple blood test. A small sample of your blood will be collected from a vein in your arm. The process is usually completed in a few minutes and is relatively painless. However, if you have any prior medical conditions or you take any medicine regularly, then inform your doctor about that beforehand.
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