A lipid panel is a blood test that measures the levels of fats in your blood called triglycerides and cholesterol. Generally, a lipid panel measures:
- total cholesterol
- high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol
- low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol
This test goes by many alternative names, such as:
- lipid profile
- lipoprotein profile
- lipid test
- coronary risk panel
High triglycerides, high LDL cholesterol, and low HDL cholesterol are associated with a higher risk of cardiovascular disease. Measuring levels of these molecules can help a doctor predict your future risk of cardiovascular disease, monitor how well your current treatment is working, or screen you for diseases that can affect your liver.
The optimal values in a lipid panel depend on your age and gender. Keep reading to learn more about the optimal range and what might influence your results.
Doctors have developed guidelines outlining optimal cholesterol and triglyceride levels by examining the 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 panel is usually milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL). In Canada and most of the rest of the world, the standard unit of measurement is millimoles per liter (mmol/L).
Researchers have found levels of cardiovascular disease are lowest when your lipid levels fall under the following values:
If your lipid levels fall slightly outside this range, your doctor may consider your lipid levels borderline. The optimal level of LDL cholesterol for people with diabetes is under
|Total cholesterol||under 170|
|LDL cholesterol||under 110|
|Triglycerides (ages 0–9)||under 75|
|Triglycerides (ages 10–19)||under 90|
|HDL cholesterol||over 45|
The following values are generally considered higher than optimal, according to
|Category||Above optimal (mg/dL)||Borderline high (mg/dL)||High (mg/dL)|
|Total cholesterol||201–219||220–239||over 240|
|Category||At-risk (men)||At-risk (women)|
|HDL cholesterol||under 40||under 50|
Lipid levels considered borderline or high in people under 19 are:
|Category||Borderline (mg/dL)||High (mg/dL)|
|Total cholesterol||170–200||over 200|
|LDL cholesterol||110–129||over 130|
|Triglycerides (ages 0–9)||75–99||over 100|
|Triglycerides (ages 10–19)||90–129||over 130|
|HDL cholesterol||40–45||under than 40|
Some lipid tests require fasting, meaning you shouldn’t eat or drink anything other than water before your test, while others don’t. Your doctor will tell you whether you need to fast and how long before your test you should stop eating. Not following your doctor’s instructions can lead to inaccurate results.
Some medications may influence your results as well, so it’s important to tell your doctor about any medications you’re currently taking before your test.
Being sick or under high stress may also influence your results.
A lipid panel is used to measure your cardiovascular health. Your doctor may recommend taking a lipid panel to:
- screen for high cholesterol or high triglycerides that put you at risk of heart disease
- monitor your lipid levels if a previous test showed abnormalities or if you have other heart disease risk factors
- measure your response to treatment if you started taking medications or have made lifestyle changes 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 to 11 and again between the ages of 17 to 21.
In adults without cardiovascular risk factors, experts recommend a screening test about once every
Risk factors include:
- being over age 45 (men) or age 50 to 55 (women)
- a previous high score on a lipid panel
- having diabetes or prediabetes
- having a parent or sibling who developed heart disease under age 55 (men) or 65 (women)
- having high blood pressure
- low levels of physical activity
- being overweight or obese
- previous cardiovascular issues
- eating an unhealthy diet
Typically, you’ll need to fast for
Sometimes, you may not need to fast. It’s important to listen to your doctor’s specific instructions.
If your cholesterol levels are high, your doctor can help you determine the best way to lower them to a healthier range. If your cholesterol levels are mildly elevated, making lifestyle changes like eating a more balanced diet and exercising more may be enough to lower them.
If lifestyle changes aren’t enough to lower your lipids, or if your lipids are very high, your doctor may recommend medications. The most commonly used medications are:
Making lifestyle changes is often enough to lower your cholesterol or triglyceride levels. Some ways you can lower your cholesterol levels include:
- maintain a moderate weight
- exercise regularly
- manage your stress
- reduce your intake of saturated fats and trans fats
- eat more fish and foods high in omega-3 fatty acids
- increase soluble fiber
- consume alcohol in moderation
Avoiding smoking can also help you lower your cholesterol levels. This can be difficult, but your doctor can help you develop a cessation plan, and many free resources are available.
A lipid profile is a test to measure levels of fats in your blood called triglycerides and cholesterol. The results of a lipid profile can help your doctor determine your risk of heart disease, diagnose medical conditions, 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 back into a healthy range. Your doctor may recommend lifestyle changes alone or a combination of lifestyle changes and medications.