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:

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:

CategoryOptimal (mg/dL)
Total cholesterolunder 200
LDL cholesterolunder 100
Triglyceridesunder 150
HDL cholesterolover 60

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 70 mg/dL.

According to 2020 research, typical levels of lipids in people under 19 are:

CategoryAcceptable (mg/dL)
Total cholesterolunder 170
LDL cholesterolunder 110
Triglycerides (ages 0–9)under 75
Triglycerides (ages 10–19)under 90
HDL cholesterolover 45

The following values are generally considered higher than optimal, according to 2021 research. Depending on how high above optimal your levels are, your doctor may recommend lifestyle changes or medications.

CategoryAbove optimal (mg/dL)Borderline high (mg/dL)High (mg/dL)
Total cholesterol201–219220–239over 240
LDL cholesterol100–129130–159160–189
Triglycerides150–499500–885over 886
CategoryAt-risk (men)At-risk (women)
HDL cholesterolunder 40under 50

Lipid levels considered borderline or high in people under 19 are:

CategoryBorderline (mg/dL)High (mg/dL)
Total cholesterol170–200over 200
LDL cholesterol110–129over 130
Triglycerides (ages 0–9)75–99over 100
Triglycerides (ages 10–19)90–129over 130
HDL cholesterol40–45under 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 4 to 6 years. People with risk factors may need more frequent testing.

Risk factors include:

Typically, you’ll need to fast for 8 to 12 hours before your test. You can’t eat and can only drink water during this period.

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:

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.

Find more information about quitting smoking here.

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.