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What is a High-density Lipoprotein (HDL) Cholesterol test? 

Lipoproteins are transport vehicles that are responsible for carrying lipids across the body. Based on their density (mass to volume ratio), lipoproteins can be of different types- very low density (VLDL), low density (LDL), and high density or HDL. The primary functions of HDL include cholesterol removal from blood and body cells and its transportation to the liver from where it is disposed out the body. Thus, HDL cholesterol is also called ‘good cholesterol’. 

Our liver produces all the cholesterol that is required by our body. However, excess intake of fatty foods may increase blood cholesterol levels, leading to an increased risk of heart diseases. By helping our body throw out this extra cholesterol HDL protects us from heart diseases. An HDL cholesterol test checks the amount of HDL cholesterol in the blood to assess the risk of cardiovascular conditions.

  1. Why is an HDL Cholesterol test performed?
  2. How do you prepare for an HDL Cholesterol test?
  3. How is an HDL Cholesterol test performed?
  4. HDL Cholesterol test results and normal range

Excessive blood cholesterol does not usually have any symptoms. An individual may essentially continue their life without ever knowing that they have high cholesterol levels. However, it may increase the risk of being affected by the following diseases:

  • Atherosclerosis (deposition of fatty substances in the arteries leading to narrowing of the lumen) 
  • Coronary heart disease (reduced blood flow to the heart)
  • Heart attack (blood flow to the heart is stopped leading to the death of part of heart muscle)

Therefore, doctors recommend getting this test done every 4-6 years as a part of general health checkup for the screening of heart diseases.

If you have a family history of high cholesterol, you would be recommended to undergo the test more often. The risk of being affected with these diseases may increase in habitual smokers and in people who have concurrent high blood pressure, and diabetes.

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No specific preparation is needed for an HDL cholesterol test. It is essentially a straightforward blood test. If you are undergoing a complete lipid profile test, your doctor may ask you to fast overnight and avoid exercise 12 hours before the test. It is important that you tell your doctor if you are taking any medicines, vitamins or herbal supplements as some of these medicines could affect the test results.

For the analysis of HDL cholesterol levels, a laboratory technician or nurse will withdraw blood from your arm following a simple protocol. 

  • An elastic band will be tied around your arm to make a vein prominent 
  • The injection site will be cleaned using a sterile solution of alcohol and a small amount of blood will be withdrawn
  • The sample will be collected in a clean tube to be sent to the laboratory for further analysis. 

You may or may not get a bruise at the blood withdrawal site. Though, if it occurs, bruising is usually temporary and fades away on its own. 

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Normal results: Results for HDL cholesterol are given in milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL). The normal range values may vary between men and woman. The following are the healthy ranges of HDL cholesterol in the blood: 

  • Men: 40-70 mg/dL
  • Women: 50-90 mg/dL

Abnormal results: Since HDL is "good cholesterol", higher than normal values are considered normal. Though lower values of HDL are considered abnormal and are associated with the following risk factors:

  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • Less physical activity
  • Smoking
  • Excess sugar intake

Some diseases associated with low HDL cholesterol are atherosclerosis, stroke and heart attack.

Disclaimer: All results must be clinically correlated with the patient’s complaints to make a complete and accurate diagnosis. The above information is provided from a purely educational point of view and is in no way a substitute for medical advice by a qualified doctor.


  1. Gerard J. Tortora, Bryan H. Derrickson. Rediff Books Flipkart Infibeam Find in a library All sellers » Shop for Books on Google Play Browse the world's largest eBookstore and start reading today on the web, tablet, phone, or ereader. Go to Google Play Now » Books on Google Play Principles o. 14th Edition; Wiley, 2013. [internet].
  2. healthfinder.gov. Get Your Cholesterol Checked. Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion [internet]
  3. American Heart Association, American Stroke Association [internet]: Texas, USA AHA: Control Your Cholesterol
  4. University of Rochester Medical Center. HDL Cholesterol. Rochester, New York [internet].
  5. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute [Internet]. Bethesda (MD): U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; Blood Tests
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