A lipid panel is a blood test that measures the levels of fats in your blood called triglycerides and cholesterol. Typically, a lipid profile measures:
This test has many alternative names, such as:
- lipid profile
- lipoprotein profile
- lipid test
- coronary risk panel
High triglyceride levels, high LDL cholesterol, and low HDL cholesterol are associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. Measuring the levels of these molecules can help a doctor predict your future risk of cardiovascular disease, monitor the effectiveness of your current treatment, or screen you for diseases that may affect your liver.
Optimal values in a lipid panel depend on your age and gender. Keep reading to learn more about the optimal range and what might be influencing your results.
Doctors have developed guidelines outlining optimal levels of cholesterol and triglycerides by examining levels of these molecules and rates of cardiovascular disease in large groups of people.
In the United States, the standard unit of measurement for a lipid profile is usually milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL). In Canada and most other parts of the world, the standard unit of measurement is the millimole per liter (mmol/L).
Researchers have found that levels of cardiovascular disease are lowest when your lipid levels fall below:
If your lipid levels are slightly outside this range, your doctor may consider your lipid levels to be borderline. The optimal level of LDL cholesterol for people with diabetes is less than
The following values are generally considered to be above the optimum, depending on
The lipid levels considered borderline or high in children under 19 are:
Some lipid tests require fasting, which means you shouldn’t eat or drink anything other than water before your test, while others don’t. Your doctor will tell you if you should fast and how long before your test you should stop eating. Failure to follow your doctor’s instructions may result in inaccurate results.
Certain medications can also influence your results, so it is important to tell your doctor about all medications you are currently taking before your test.
Being sick or under high stress can also influence your results.
A lipid profile is used to measure your cardiovascular health. Your doctor may recommend that you take a lipid panel to:
- screen for high cholesterol or high triglycerides that put you at risk for heart disease
- monitor your lipid levels if a previous test showed abnormalities or if you have other risk factors for heart disease
- measure your response to treatment if you have started taking medication or changed your lifestyle to lower your lipids
- diagnose certain medical conditions involving your liver or pancreas
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all children receive a lipid panel between the ages of 9 and 11, and again between 17 and 21.
In adults without cardiovascular risk factors, experts recommend screening about once a day.
Risk factors include:
Generally, you will need to fast for
Sometimes you may not need to fast. It is important to listen to your doctor’s specific instructions.
If you have high cholesterol, your doctor can help you determine the best way to lower it to a healthier level. If your cholesterol level is mildly elevated, lifestyle changes, such as eating a more balanced diet and exercising more, may be enough to lower it.
If lifestyle changes aren’t enough to lower your lipids, or if your lipids are very high, your doctor may recommend medication. The most commonly used drugs are:
Making lifestyle changes is often enough to lower your cholesterol or triglyceride levels. Here are some ways to lower your cholesterol levels:
Avoiding smoking can also help lower your cholesterol levels. It can be difficult, but your doctor can help you develop a quit plan, and there are many free resources available.
Find more information about quitting smoking here.
A lipid profile is a test to measure the levels of fats in your blood called triglycerides and cholesterol. The results of a lipid profile can help your doctor determine your risk for heart disease, diagnose health problems, or monitor your treatment for high cholesterol or triglycerides.
If your cholesterol or triglyceride levels are high, your doctor can suggest ways to bring them down to a healthy level. Your doctor may recommend lifestyle changes alone or a combination of lifestyle changes and medications.