How is cholesterol measured?

Blood cholesterol levels are measured with a small blood sample. You should have a complete lipoprotein panel, which measures total cholesterol (low-density lipoprotein [LDL] + high-density lipoprotein [HDL]), LDL (bad cholesterol), HDL (good cholesterol) and triglyceride levels. Ideally, it should be a fasting panel, completed after you've fasted for nine to 12 hours.

Additionally, other markers indirectly related to lipids but associated with cardiovascular risk, like C-reactive protein, may be measured.

It is possible to have a standard lipid profile with all your numbers in the target range, but still have an LDL particle number or C-reactive protein level that increases your risk for cardiovascular disease. Such expanded testing may help your healthcare provider better target your therapy to reduce your individual risk.
Dr. Robin Miller, MD
Internal Medicine

Cholesterol is measured using a special blood test called the vertical auto profile or VAP. It measures the total cholesterol, HDL or good cholesterol, LDL or bad  cholesterol and triglycerides. It also measures other lipoproteins that carry the cholesterol particles, and indicates the size of the good and bad cholesterol. 

Some people have an elevated LDL or bad cholesterol but it may be big and fluffy and cause no problems. Others may have dense LDL that will cause inflammation and plaque in arteries.

Patients may have a high good or HDL cholesterol but it may not be the protective kind. There is HDL 2, which is protective and HDL 3 which is not. These are important things to know.

When a regular lipid panel is done it only measures total cholesterol,  triglycerides and HDL. The LDL cholesterol is calculated so it may not be accurate. Before starting a lipid lowering medication, I think it is important to find out the true cholesterol levels and what type they are. Sometimes treatment may not be necessary.

Laura Motosko, MSEd, RD
Nutrition & Dietetics

Cholesterol is measured by a blood test, which includes a measure of several types of cholesterol or lipoproteins in your blood. A lipoprotein is a small container to carry cholesterol in your bloodstream, made up of fat (lipid) on the inside and protein on the outside. The main types of lipoprotein include LDL (low density lipoprotein) and HDL (high density lipoprotein). The bad or lousy LDL cholesterol in high amounts in your blood, build up along the arteries which take blood away from your heart to your body and can lead to heart disease. The good or healthy HDL cholesterol transports cholesterol in your body to your liver where it is removed. High HDL cholesterol greater than 60 may help reduce risk of heart disease. Your total cholesterol is a combination of LDL, HDL, very low density lipoproteins (VLDL) as well as cholesterol in your blood from a recent high fat meal. Total cholesterol contains VLDL which is plaque forming cholesterol that may be a risk factor for heart disease. Your doctor or healthcare provider should discuss cholesterol results with you to evaluate your risk for heart disease.

Teneisha C. Davis, MD
Family Medicine
Cholesterol is a waxy substance your body uses to protect nerves, make cell tissues, and produce certain hormones.  It is traditional measured through blood.  There are four components that make up the total cholesterol.  These include, LDL, VLDL, HDL, and triglycerides. 
Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
Medication for high cholesterol may not be necessary anymore.

In this video, Dr. Oz welcomes Dr. Arthur Agatston to discuss a recent discovery about cholesterol that has revolutionized how cholesterol is measured.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.