The lipid profile is a group of tests that are often ordered together to determine risk of coronary heart disease. They are tests that have been shown to be good indicators of whether someone is likely to have a heart attack or stroke caused by blockage of blood vessels or hardening of the arteries (atherosclerois). The lipid profile typically includes:
High density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C) - often called good cholesterol
Low density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) - often called bad cholesterol
Sometimes the report will include additional calculated values such as the Cholesterol/HDL ratio or a risk score based on lipid profile results, age, sex, and other risk factors. Talk to your doctor about what these other reported values may mean for you.
How is the sample collected for testing?
A blood sample is obtained by inserting a needle into a vein in the arm. You need to fast for 9-12 hours before having your blood drawn; only water is permitted.
How is a lipid profile used?
The lipid profile is used to help determine your risk of heart disease and to help guide you and your health care provider in deciding what treatment may be best for you if you have borderline or high risk. The results of the lipid profile are considered along with other known risk factors of heart disease to develop a plan of treatment and follow-up. Depending on your results and other risk factors, treatment options may involve life-style changes such as diet and exercise or lipid-lowering medications such as statins.
When is it ordered?
It is recommended that healthy adults with no other risk factors for heart disease be tested with a fasting lipid profile once a year. You may be screened using only a cholesterol test and not a full lipid profile. However, if the cholesterol test result is high, you may have follow-up testing with a lipid profile.
If you have other risk factors or have had a high cholesterol level in the past, you should be tested more regularly and you should have a full lipid profile.
For children and adolescents at low risk, lipid testing is usually not ordered routinely. However, screening with a lipid profile is recommended for children and youths who are at an increased risk of developing heart disease as adults. Some of the risk factors are similar to those in adults and include a family history of heart disease or health problems such as diabetes, high blood pressure (hypertension), or being overweight. High-risk children should have their first lipid profile between 2 and 10 years old, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Children younger than 2 years old are too young to be tested.
A lipid profile may also be ordered at regular intervals to evaluate the success of lipid-lowering lifestyle changes such as diet and exercise or to determine the effectiveness of drug therapy such as statins.