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High-density Lipoprotein Cholesterol

What Is HDL Cholesterol?

HDL cholesterol is often called good cholesterol. Higher levels of HDL are linked to a lower risk of heart disease and stroke.

Reason for the Test

A lipid profile test measures fat levels in the blood. HDL cholesterol is one item that will be measured with this test. It may be done for one or more of the following:

  • To check for cholesterol problems
  • To track treatment progress
  • Check risk of heart disease

It may be done as part of a regular screening. The test may also be needed for people with cholesterol problems or with a high risk of heart disease.

Type of Sample Taken

A blood sample will be taken from a vein in the arm.

Prior to Collecting the Sample

You may not need to do anything before the test. But, your doctor may ask you to not eat or drink anything other than water for 9 to 12 hours before the test.

Talk to your doctor about medicines or supplements you take. They may affect the results.

During the Sample Collection

You will be asked to sit. An area inside your elbow will be cleaned. 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 to 10 minutes.

Cholesterol tests can also be done with a home kit, or at worksites, health fairs, or drug stores. Get retested by your doctor if results show you may have high total cholesterol.

After Collecting the Sample

After the blood sample is taken, 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.

A bit of blood may ooze from the vein beneath the skin. It will cause a bruise. A bruise will usually fade in a day or two.

Call your doctor right away if you have redness, swelling, lasting bleeding, or pain.


Results can take 1 to 2 days.

HDL should be higher than 59 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL). Higher levels lower the risk of heart disease. Your doctor will find ways to help you raise HDL levels if they are too low.

Talk to your doctor about your test results. A test can point to an illness that you do not have. It can also miss an illness that you may have. The doctor will check your symptoms and all test results before making a diagnosis.


HDL cholesterol. Lab Tests Online—American Association for Clinical Chemistry website. Available at: https://labtestsonline.org/tests/hdl-cholesterol. Updated May 2, 2019. Accessed May 22, 2019.

Hypercholesterolemia. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:https://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T114250/Hypercholesterolemia. Updated April 16, 2019. Accessed May 22, 2019.

What your cholesterol levels mean. American Heart Association website. Available at: https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/cholesterol/about-cholesterol/what-your-cholesterol-levels-mean. Accessed May 22, 2019.

Last reviewed March 2019 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Marcin Chwistek, MD