• Loading results...
  • text 1
  • text 2
Please enter a valid search term

Exams and Tests

It's important to track your cholesterol and risk for related heart disease, heart attack or stroke. A simple blood test – called a lipid panel – is used to check the amount of cholesterol in your blood.

Cholesterol is measured in milligrams (mg) per deciliter (dL) of blood – mg/dL in the United States. The test provides four measures: 

  • Total cholesterol
  • LDL cholesterol, often called the “bad” cholesterol
  • HDL cholesterol
  • Triglycerides

While you’ve likely heard of these measures, there is another type of lipoprotein that is less talked about called Lipoprotein (a)Lp(a) or "L-P-little-A" for short.

  • High Lp(a) can increase the chance of having a heart attack, stroke or aortic stenosis.  
  • As many as 1 in 5 adults have a high Lp(a), but it is not included in standard cholesterol or lipid tests. Lp(a) is most often determined by someone’s genes (meaning it is passed down in families).
  • Testing for Lp(a) through a simple blood test can give you and your health care team a more complete understanding of your risk for stroke, heart attack or other diseases – it’s especially important if you have a strong family history of early heart disease. Because it doesn’t change much over time, many people need to have it checked only once. 

Other measures your care team might look at are levels of Apolipoprotein B (Apo-B), which helps make plaque that can clog arteries, as well as other non-HDL cholesterol.

Tracking cholesterol over time

It’s important to track your cholesterol over time, especially because there are often no signs and symptoms of early buildup of fatty substances and cholesterol in the artery walls.

Talk with your health care team about how often your cholesterol should be checked and what numbers would be ideal for you.

When High LDL Cholesterol Runs in Families
If you have high LDL cholesterol that doesn’t seem to respond to lifestyle changes or medications, ask about familial hypercholesterolemia (FH). Learn more at CardioSmart.org/FH.
  • Last Edited 03/22/2024