This is a blood test that measures a kind of fat (lipid) in the blood. This fat is called high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol.
The HDL test helps check your risk for heart disease or atherosclerosis, which is a hardening, narrowing, or blockage of the arteries.
HDL is also called good cholesterol. Having high levels of HDL in your blood reduces your risk of heart disease. (You can think of "H" for "healthy" cholesterol.) HDL attaches to and carries away harmful blood fats, such as low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol. HDL helps prevent the LDL from sticking to the walls of your blood vessels and causing blockages.
Tests measuring LDL and other lipids, such as triglycerides, are often done at the same time as the HDL test. Together, these lipid tests are often called a lipid panel.
The higher your HDL is, the lower your risk of heart disease.
If you have changed your diet and exercise habits or are taking medicine to improve your cholesterol levels, this test can also help show how well your treatment is working.
A small amount of blood is taken from your arm with a needle. The blood is collected in tubes and sent to a lab.
Having this test will take just a few minutes of your time.
Ask your healthcare provider when and how you will get the result of your test.
Because HDL cholesterol protects against heart disease, higher numbers are better. A level under 40 mg/dL is low and is considered a major risk factor because it increases your risk for developing heart disease. HDL levels of 60 mg/dL or more help to lower your risk for heart disease.
Your HDL level may be low because:
Test results are only one part of a larger picture that takes into account your personal and family medical history and your current health. Sometimes a test needs to be repeated to check the first result. Talk to your healthcare provider about your result and ask questions.
If your test result is not normal, ask your healthcare provider: