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HDL Cholesterol Test



  • This blood test measures a kind of fat (lipid) called high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol.
  • The HDL test helps check your child’s risk for heart disease or blocked arteries. It can also check how well treatment is working.
  • Make sure your child follows your healthcare provider’s instructions about eating, drinking, and exercising before the test.


What is the HDL cholesterol test?

This blood test measures a kind of fat (lipid) called high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol. Your child needs cholesterol to make hormones and to build and keep healthy cells. However, too much harmful blood fat can cause problems that increase your child’s risk for heart disease, heart attack, and stroke as an adult. HDL, also called good cholesterol, is a type of blood fat that helps the body get rid of other blood fats that are harmful.

Your child’s body makes some cholesterol and gets the rest from foods such as meats, eggs, and milk products.

Tests measuring other types of cholesterol and fats are often done at the same time as the HDL test. Together, these lipid tests are often called a lipid panel. Children and teens should have a cholesterol test between the ages of 9 and 11 years and again between the ages of 17 and 21 years.

Why is this test done?

The HDL test, as part of a lipid panel, helps check your child’s risk for heart disease or atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis is a hardening, narrowing, or blockage of the arteries.

If you are working to improve your child’s cholesterol levels with healthy food choices, physical activity, or medicine, this test can help show how well treatment is working.

How do I prepare my child for this test?

  • Your child should avoid eating fatty foods the evening before the test.
  • Your child’s healthcare provider will tell your child when to stop eating and drinking before the test. Food and drink before the test may affect the results.
  • Your child should avoid exercise for 12 to 14 hours before the test.
  • Your child may need to avoid taking certain medicines before the test because they might affect the test result. Tell your child's healthcare provider about all the medicines and supplements your child takes. Ask your child’s provider before stopping any of your child’s regular medicines.
  • Talk to your child’s healthcare provider if you have any questions about the test.

How is the test done?

Having this test will take just a few minutes. A small amount of blood is taken from a vein in your child’s arm with a needle. The blood is collected in tubes and sent to a lab.

Ask your child’s healthcare provider how and when you will get your child’s test results.

What does the test result mean?

Because HDL cholesterol protects against heart disease, higher numbers are better. HDL levels of 45 mg/dL or higher help to lower your child’s risk for heart disease.

Some of the reasons your child’s HDL level may be low are:

  • Your child is overweight.
  • Your child eats too many sweets or greasy and fatty foods.
  • Your child smokes.
  • Your child does not get enough exercise.
  • Your child has inherited a tendency to have a low HDL.

What if my child’s test result is not normal?

Test results are only one part of a larger picture that takes into account your child’s medical history, physical exam, and current health. Sometimes a test needs to be repeated to check the first result. Talk to your child’s healthcare provider about the results and ask questions such as:

  • Whether your child needs more tests
  • What kind of treatment your child might need
  • What lifestyle, diet, or other changes your child might need to make
Developed by Change Healthcare.
Pediatric Advisor 2022.1 published by Change Healthcare.
Last modified: 2022-01-03
Last reviewed: 2018-07-10
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
© 2022 Change Healthcare LLC and/or one of its subsidiaries
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