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How to test lipids: a guide

Medically reviewed on July 13, 2022 by Jordan Stachel, M.S., RDN, CPT. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.

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Lipids are small, but these macromolecules play a significant role in the body’s essential functions, from storing energy and protecting the cells to helping the body rid itself of excess cholesterol.

That said, elevated lipid levels can be cause for concern, and it’s important to test your lipids to stay on top of your overall health. In fact, a lipid test is a primary way that healthcare providers measure the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases.

In this guide, we’ll walk you through how to test lipids and detail the role lipids play in the body and the risks associated with lipid build-up.

What are lipids and what is their function?

Lipids are organic compounds that are insoluble in water. They occur naturally in the human body as fats, hormones, oils, and waxes, and these biomolecules are integral to maintaining a state of homeostasis that keeps you alive.

There are three primary types of lipids: [1]

  • Phospholipids – These lipids form around the exterior of the cells in the body. They act as a protective shield that keeps cells healthy and functioning.
  • Sterols – Sterols are a type of steroid that help regulate cell development. Cholesterol is an example of a sterol found in the human body.
  • Triglycerides – These lipids come from the foods we eat. They’re fats that can be either saturated or unsaturated and include both omega fatty acids and trans fats.

Although the body needs a certain amount of lipids to function, too many can lead to health risks. Of particular concern are triglycerides and the sterol known as “cholesterol.” Generally, these lipids play a key part in keeping you healthy. For example, cholesterol helps the body build cell membranes, produce several necessary hormones, and produce vitamin D.

However, when you have excess cholesterol and other lipids zipping through the system, the excess can collect within blood vessels and the arteries in the heart. [2] This lipid logjam can result in a range of cardiovascular issues like:

  • Heart disease
  • Heart attack
  • Stroke

The health issues caused by elevated lipid levels can be quite serious and even fatal.

Fortunately, testing lipid levels provide healthcare providers with the data they need to determine the risk of cardiovascular disease. A lipid test can also be used to monitor the lipid levels of patients undergoing treatment for high cholesterol or patients who have shown elevated levels in the past.

How to test lipids in the human body

To test lipid levels, you or a healthcare provider will use a lipid panel, a blood test that’s used to screen your risk of cardiovascular disease or identify certain genetic diseases.

So, are you wondering how long to fast for a cholesterol test? Whether you’re testing at home or in the hospital, you’re generally required to fast from food and drink for 10 to 12 hours before your test to ensure the results are accurate.

In the hospital

Do you know how to understand cholesterol test results? During the procedure, a healthcare professional will draw a sample of blood and use it to measure the levels of five different types of lipids. The lipids measured include [3-7]:

  • Total cholesterol – A lipid panel measures the amount of all types of cholesterol in the body. A desirable total cholesterol level is less than 200 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL).
  • Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol – LDL cholesterol is commonly known as “bad cholesterol.” In short, it’s the type of cholesterol that can clog the arteries and increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. In a healthy body, LDL levels are below 100 mg/dL.
  • Very low-density lipoprotein (VLDL) cholesterol – The liver is responsible for making VLDL cholesterol, which is then pumped into the bloodstream to help bring fat to the body’s tissues. VLDL levels that exceed 30 mg/dL are believed to result in plaque deposits on the arterial walls.
  • High-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol – These lipoproteins are considered good cholesterol because they return cholesterol to the liver, which then expels it from the body.
  • Triglycerides – The body uses triglycerides to store energy from calories until needed. A healthy number of triglycerides is less than 150 mg/dL.

At Home

So, are you wondering how to test cholesterol at home? If you choose to test your lipid levels at home with a company like Everlywell, you’ll conduct the test yourself. You’ll receive detailed instructions and an instructional video to guide you as you take your blood sample with a finger prick.

Once you’ve collected blood, you’ll place the sample in a designated blood sample return bag and ship it to a CLIA-certified lab, where a board-certified physician will review and approve your lipid profile test results.

The Cholesterol & Lipids Test from Everlywell measures four biomarkers:

  • Total cholesterol
  • Calculated LDL
  • HDL cholesterol
  • Triglycerides

What if my lipids levels are too high?

Although a lipid panel can tell you if your levels are too high, the results aren’t able to tell you the source of your elevated levels. If your results are abnormal, consult with a healthcare provider to determine the best way to regulate your cholesterol and triglyceride levels. In general, treatment may include:

  • Medication
  • Dietary changes
  • Lifestyle changes
  • Continued monitoring

Everlywell — bringing healthcare home

When monitoring lipid levels, healthcare providers will use a lipid panel blood test to identify irregular levels of cholesterol and triglycerides.

If you’re looking to monitor your cholesterol or you’re curious about your body’s overall health, the at-home Cholesterol & Lipids Test from Everlywell provides you with sample collection materials, pre-paid shipping labels, and professional analysis and consultations to gain insight into your body’s lipid profile.

How to understand cholesterol test results

How to test cholesterol at home?

How long to fast for a cholesterol test

What are good cholesterol numbers?


  1. Lipid: Types, Function, Benefits, and Risks. VeryWell Health. URL. Accessed July 13, 2022.
  2. Lipid Panel: What It Is, Purpose, Preparation & Results. Cleveland Clinic. URL. Accessed July 13, 2022.
  3. VLDL Cholesterol: Is It Harmful? Mayo Clinic. URL. Accessed July 13, 2022.
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