Cholesterol, HDL

The following is a list of what is included in the item above. Click the test(s) below to view what biomarkers are measured along with an explanation of what the biomarker is measuring.

Also known as: Cholesterol HDL

HDL Cholesterol

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The Cholesterol, HDL test contains 1 test with 1 biomarker.

Brief Description: The HDL Cholesterol test measures the amount of high-density lipoprotein cholesterol in the blood. HDL cholesterol is often referred to as "good cholesterol" because it plays a crucial role in removing excess cholesterol from the bloodstream and transporting it to the liver for excretion. It is a component of the body's total cholesterol, and its levels can provide insights into an individual's risk for cardiovascular diseases.

Collection Method: Blood Draw

Specimen Type: Serum

Test Preparation: If an HDL Cholesterol measurement is to be performed along with Triglycerides, the patient should be fasting 9-12 hours prior to collection

When and Why an HDL Cholesterol Test May Be Ordered

A HDL Cholesterol test is usually ordered as part of a routine lipid panel, especially for individuals over the age of 20 or those with risk factors for heart disease. It may also be ordered:

  1. To assess the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases, especially if one has risk factors like smoking, hypertension, family history of heart disease, diabetes, or being overweight.
  2. To monitor the effectiveness of treatments aimed at increasing HDL levels or overall cholesterol management.
  3. As a follow-up, especially after starting medications that might affect cholesterol levels.

What an HDL Cholesterol Test Checks For

The HDL Cholesterol test measures the concentration of high-density lipoprotein cholesterol in the blood. A higher level of HDL cholesterol is generally considered protective against heart disease, as it suggests that excess cholesterol is being efficiently removed from the bloodstream and tissues.

Other Lab Tests Ordered Alongside an HDL Cholesterol Test

When an HDL Cholesterol test is ordered, it's usually part of a broader evaluation of lipid status and cardiovascular risk. Here are some tests commonly ordered alongside it:

  1. LDL Cholesterol (Low-Density Lipoprotein Cholesterol):

    • Purpose: To measure the level of LDL cholesterol, often referred to as "bad" cholesterol.
    • Why Is It Ordered: LDL cholesterol is a primary driver of atherosclerosis and is a crucial indicator of cardiovascular risk.
  2. Total Cholesterol:

    • Purpose: To measure the total amount of cholesterol in the blood.
    • Why Is It Ordered: To provide a comprehensive view of cholesterol levels, which helps in assessing cardiovascular risk.
  3. Triglycerides:

    • Purpose: To measure the level of triglycerides, a type of fat in the blood.
    • Why Is It Ordered: Elevated triglyceride levels are associated with an increased risk of atherosclerosis and can be an indicator of metabolic syndrome.
  4. VLDL Cholesterol (Very Low-Density Lipoprotein Cholesterol):

    • Purpose: To estimate the level of VLDL cholesterol, which is a carrier of triglycerides.
    • Why Is It Ordered: VLDL is another contributor to plaque buildup in arteries.
  5. Lipid Panel or Lipoprotein Profile:

    • Purpose: To provide a comprehensive assessment of lipid levels, including HDL, LDL, total cholesterol, and triglycerides.
    • Why Is It Ordered: To assess cardiovascular risk and to guide treatment decisions for lipid-lowering therapies.
  6. Apolipoprotein B (ApoB):

    • Purpose: To measure the amount of ApoB, a protein found in LDL and VLDL particles.
    • Why Is It Ordered: ApoB is a marker of the number of atherogenic particles and can provide additional risk assessment, especially in individuals with high triglycerides or diabetes.
  7. C-Reactive Protein (CRP), especially high-sensitivity CRP (hs-CRP):

    • Purpose: To measure the level of CRP, a marker of inflammation.
    • Why Is It Ordered: Hs-CRP can provide information about cardiovascular risk, as inflammation plays a role in atherosclerosis.

These tests, when ordered alongside an HDL Cholesterol test, provide a comprehensive picture of an individual’s lipid status and cardiovascular risk. They are critical in diagnosing and managing conditions like hyperlipidemia, atherosclerosis, and in making decisions about interventions such as lifestyle changes or medications to lower lipid levels. The specific combination of tests will depend on the individual’s medical history, risk factors, and current health status.

Conditions or Diseases Requiring an HDL Cholesterol Test

While the HDL Cholesterol test itself isn't diagnostic, its results can indicate risk levels for certain conditions:

  1. Coronary Heart Disease (CHD): Low HDL levels can be a risk factor.
  2. Atherosclerosis: Buildup of fats, cholesterol, and other substances on artery walls.
  3. Peripheral Artery Disease: Narrowing of peripheral arteries due to cholesterol buildup.

The test might also be used in individuals with a known genetic predisposition for familial hypoalphalipoproteinemia, a condition characterized by low HDL levels.

How Health Care Providers Use the Results of an HDL Cholesterol Test

The results of the HDL Cholesterol test provide healthcare providers with insights into an individual's risk for heart disease:

  1. High HDL levels (60 mg/dL and above) are protective against heart disease.
  2. Low HDL levels (less than 40 mg/dL for men and less than 50 mg/dL for women) increase the risk of heart disease.

Providers use these results to guide recommendations on lifestyle changes, medications, or other interventions. For instance, if HDL is low, a patient might be advised to increase physical activity, stop smoking, manage weight, or adjust dietary habits. In some cases, medications like niacin or statins might be prescribed.

Most Common Questions About the HDL Cholesterol test:

Purpose and Clinical Indications

Why is the HDL Cholesterol test performed?

The HDL Cholesterol test is performed to measure the level of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol in the blood. HDL cholesterol is often referred to as "good" cholesterol because it helps remove other forms of cholesterol from the bloodstream, potentially reducing the risk of heart disease and stroke.

What role does HDL cholesterol play in the body?

HDL cholesterol plays a protective role in the cardiovascular system. It transports cholesterol from other parts of the body to the liver, where it can be processed and excreted. This action helps prevent the buildup of cholesterol in the walls of arteries, which can lead to atherosclerosis, heart attacks, and strokes.

Interpretation of Results

What do different levels of HDL cholesterol mean in the HDL Cholesterol test results?

High levels of HDL cholesterol are generally considered beneficial and are associated with a reduced risk of heart disease. On the other hand, low levels of HDL cholesterol may increase the risk of heart disease. Typically, for adults, an HDL cholesterol level of 60 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) or higher is considered protective against heart disease, while a level less than 40 mg/dL is considered a risk factor for heart disease.

How does the HDL Cholesterol test result factor into the overall cholesterol profile?

The HDL Cholesterol test is often part of a larger lipid panel that also measures total cholesterol, LDL (low-density lipoprotein, or "bad" cholesterol), and triglycerides. The results from the HDL Cholesterol test are combined with the results of these other measurements to provide a more comprehensive understanding of a person's lipid levels and cardiovascular risk.

Clinical Implications

Can changes in lifestyle or medication affect HDL cholesterol levels?

Yes, certain lifestyle modifications, such as regular exercise, quitting smoking, and adopting a healthy diet, can help raise HDL cholesterol levels. Additionally, certain medications, like niacin and some types of statins, may also help increase HDL cholesterol levels.

Should the HDL Cholesterol test be repeated periodically?

Yes, the HDL Cholesterol test is often repeated periodically, especially in individuals with known cardiovascular risk factors or those on treatments aimed at altering cholesterol levels. Regular monitoring can help healthcare providers determine the effectiveness of treatment and make necessary adjustments.

Relationships with Other Health Conditions

Are there certain health conditions that can influence HDL cholesterol levels in the HDL Cholesterol test?

Yes, several health conditions can influence HDL cholesterol levels. For instance, people with diabetes often have lower HDL cholesterol levels. Additionally, obesity, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), and metabolic syndrome can also negatively impact HDL cholesterol levels. Conversely, regular physical activity and maintaining a healthy weight can promote higher HDL cholesterol levels.

We advise having your results reviewed by a licensed medical healthcare professional for proper interpretation of your results.

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