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Lipid disorders are diagnosed with blood tests that measure the level of cholesterol and triglyceride in the blood.

Blood Tests

Cholesterol levels are checked with a blood test. A small blood sample is taken from a vein in your arm. You may need to fast for several hours, usually overnight, before your blood is taken. The test measures levels of:

  • Total cholesterol
  • Unhealthy LDL cholesterol
  • Healthy HDL cholesterol
  • Triglycerides

The readings are interpreted as follows:

Total Cholesterol
<200 mg/dL (5.2 mmol/L)Desirable
200-239 mg/dL (5.2-6.1 mmol/L)Borderline high
240 mg/dL (6.2 mmol/L) and aboveHigh
LDL Cholesterol
Less than 100 mg/dL (2.6 mmol/L)Optimal
100-129 mg/dL (2.6-3.3 mmol/L)Near optimal/above optimal
130-159 mg/dL (3.4-4.0 mmol/L)Borderline high
160-189 mg/dL (4.1-4.8 mmol/L)High
>190 mg/dL (4.9 mmol/L) and aboveVery high
HDL Cholesterol
60 mg/dL (1.6 mmol/L) and aboveProtective against heart disease
Less than 40 mg/dL (1.0 mmol/L)A major heart disease risk factor
Less than 150 mg/dL (1.7 mmol/L)Normal
150-199 mg/dL (1.7-2.2 mmol/L)Borderline high
200-499 mg/dL (2.3-5.6 mmol/L)High
500 mg/dL (5.7 mmol/L) and aboveVery high

mg/dL = milligrams per deciliter of blood; (mmol/L= millimoles per liter of blood)


ATP III guidelines at a glance quick desk reference. National Cholesterol Education Program. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute website. Available at: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/guidelines/cholesterol/atglance.pdf. Updated May 2001. Accessed March 22, 2013.

Hypercholesterolemia. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://dynamed.ebscohost.com/about/about-us. Updated February 11, 2013. Accessed March 22, 2013.

Hypertriglyceridemia. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://dynamed.ebscohost.com/about/about-us. Updated January 17, 2013. Accessed March 22, 2013.

Last reviewed June 2013 by Brian Randall, MD

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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