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HDL Cholesterol Blood Test

Last updated July 23, 2019

Approved by: Maulik P. Purohit MD, MPH

Th test is used to assess the levels of HDL in blood; to estimate the risk for cardiovascular disease.

What are the other Names for this Test? (Equivalent Terms)

  • HDL Blood Test
  • HDL-C Blood Test
  • High-Density Lipoprotein Cholesterol Blood Test

What is HDL Cholesterol Blood Test? (Background Information)

  • High-density lipoprotein (HDL) is one of the several protein transporters of cholesterol through blood. It is necessary for the regulation of fat metabolism
  • Lipoproteins are necessary because cholesterol and fats are not soluble in blood and would otherwise coagulate and clog blood vessels
  • Lipoproteins contain apolipoproteins (“apo-“ means detached) as part of their structure. Apolipoproteins are required for transport and migration outside the blood vessel
  • The type of apolipoprotein contained by a lipoprotein determines where the lipoprotein will go. This is because cells at the destination recognize lipoproteins by the apolipoproteins they contain
  • There are different kinds of lipoproteins, depending on the ratio of protein to fat:
    • Very-low density lipoproteins (VLDL) and chylomicrons contain high amounts of fat per protein
    • High-density lipoproteins (HDL) contain less fat per protein. They transport fat and cholesterol from the body back to the liver for metabolism. Thus, they are called “good”
    • Low-density lipoproteins (LDL) transport fat and cholesterol from the liver to the rest of the body. Thus, they are called “bad”
  • The HDL Cholesterol Blood Test is used to assess the levels of HDL in blood. It is used to estimate the risk for cardiovascular disease and also helps provide a measure of one’s cardiovascular health

What are the Clinical Indications for performing the HDL Cholesterol Blood Test?

Clinical indicators for performing the Lipoprotein (a) Blood Test include:

  • Evaluating the risk for cardiovascular disease that is marked by:
    • Chest pain or discomfort
    • Shortness of breath
    • Fatigue
    • Jaw pain
    • Family history of cardiovascular disease             
  • Monitoring therapy for cardiovascular disease or high cholesterol levels

How is the Specimen Collected for HDL Cholesterol Blood Test?

Following is the specimen collection process for HDL Cholesterol Blood Test:

Sample required: Blood

Process of obtaining blood sample in adults:

  • A band is wrapped around the arm, 3-4 inches above the collection site (superficial vein that lies within the elbow pit)
  • The site is cleaned with 70% alcohol in an outward spiral, away from the zone of needle insertion
  • The needle cap is removed and is held in line with the vein, pulling the skin tight
  • With a small and quick thrust, the vein is penetrated using the needle
  • The required amount of blood sample is collected, by pulling the plunger of the syringe out slowly
  • The wrap band is removed, gauze is placed on the collection site, and the needle is removed
  • The blood is immediately transferred into the blood container, which has the appropriate preservative/clot activator/anti-coagulant
  • The syringe and the needle are disposed into the appropriate “sharp container” for safe and hygienic disposal
  • OR, a finger-stick method (pricking one’s finger) may be used for obtaining a sample of blood

Preparation required: No special preparation is needed prior to the test.

What is the Significance of the HDL Cholesterol Blood Test Result?

The significance of the HDL Cholesterol Blood Test result is explained:

High HDL cholesterol levels may indicate:

  • Familial hyper-a-lipoproteinemia
  • Biliary cirrhosis
  • Chronic hepatitis
  • Tangier disease
  • Chronic renal failure
  • Cholestasis
  • Hepatocellular disorders
  • Nephrotic syndrome
  • Premature coronary artery disease (CAD)

Low HDL cholesterol levels may indicate:

  • A-ß-lipoproteinemia
  • Fish eye disease
  • Hypertriglyceridemia
  • Chronic anemia
  • Chronic pulmonary disease
  • Severe hepatocellular destruction or disease
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Inflammatory joint disease
  • Myeloma
  • Reye’s syndrome

The laboratory test results are NOT to be interpreted as results of a "stand-alone" test. The test results have to be interpreted after correlating with suitable clinical findings and additional supplemental tests/information. Your healthcare providers will explain the meaning of your tests results, based on the overall clinical scenario.

Additional and Relevant Useful Information:

Certain factors may interfere with the results of the HDL Cholesterol Blood Test. These include:

  • Stress
  • Pregnancy
  • Diet
  • Exercise
  • Individual genetic predispositions to certain enzyme deficiencies 

Certain medications that you may be currently taking may influence the outcome of the test. Hence, it is important to inform your healthcare provider, the complete list of medications (including any herbal supplements) you are currently taking. This will help the healthcare provider interpret your test results more accurately and avoid unnecessary chances of a misdiagnosis.

Please visit our Laboratory Procedures Center for more physician-approved health information:


References and Information Sources used for the Article:

Reviewed and Approved by a member of the DoveMed Editorial Board
First uploaded: May 15, 2015
Last updated: July 23, 2019