Lipid Tests

(Cholesterol Tests; Serum Lipid Profile)


A lipid test measures the amount of fats in the blood such as:

  • High-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol
  • Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol
  • Triglycerides

Cholesterol tests measure the levels of cholesterol in the blood. A serum lipid profile measures total cholesterol and HDL levels plus triglycerides.

Reasons for Test

This test is done to estimate a person's risk for heart disease. Too much cholesterol raises the risk of plaque building up in blood vessels. This can lead to a heart attack or stroke.

Plaque Formation in a Blood Vessel

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Possible Complications

There are no major problems associated with this test.

What to Expect

Prior to Test

Steps to take before the test depend on the test being given. For example:

  • Fasting lipid profile—You will need to stop eating or drinking 9 to 12 hours before the test. Water is allowed during this time.
  • Total cholesterol test and total cholesterol test with HDL —You do not need to fast.

Description of Test

You will be asked to sit. An area inside your elbow will be cleaned with an antiseptic wipe. A large band will be tied around your arm. The needle will then be inserted into a vein. A tube will collect the blood from the needle. The band on your arm will be removed. Once all the blood is collected, the needle will be removed. Some gauze will be placed over the site to help stop bleeding. You may also be given a bandage to place over the site. The process takes about 5 to10 minutes.

After Test

After the blood sample is collected, you may need to stay seated for 10 to 15 minutes. If you are lightheaded, you may need to stay seated longer. When you feel better, you can leave.

How Long Will It Take?

A few minutes

Will It Hurt?

It may hurt slightly when the needle is inserted.


Talk to your doctor about your test results. More testing may need to be done depending on your test results.

Call Your Doctor

Call your doctor if any of these occur:

  • Increased redness, pain, or discharge from the blood test site
  • Severe bruising or swelling

If you think you have an emergency, call for medical help right away.


American Heart Association
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute


Dietitians of Canada
Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada


Cholesterol. Lab Tests Online—American Association for Clinical Chemistry website. Available at: Accessed January 15, 2021.
High blood cholesterol. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute website. Available at: Accessed January 15, 2021.
How to get your cholesterol tested. American Heart Association website. Available at : Accessed January 15, 2021.
Hypercholesterolemia. EBSCO DynaMed webite. Available at: Accessed January 15, 2021.
Winter W, Harris N, What are the goals of lipid testing? J Appl Lab Med. 2018; 2 (5): 816–818.
Last reviewed February 2020 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Marcin Chwistek, MD
Last Updated: 1/15/2021

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