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Lipid Panel Results: How to Read a Lipid Panel

Lipid Panel Results: How to Read a Lipid Panel

A lipid panel measures cholesterol and other fats in your blood. A normal lipid panel includes four main results: total cholesterol, triglycerides, high-density lipoprotein, and low-density lipoprotein. Together, these give your doctor a snapshot of your blood’s fat content, which can help them predict the likelihood of your arteries clogging and eventually causing heart disease.

Doctors often order lipid panels as part of routine checkups and to check for a patient’s risk factors as they get older. When you get your lipid panel results back, you may wonder how to read your lipid panel results before you revisit your doctor. Here’s what you need to know.

Lipid Panel Componants 

Your lipid panel results will display the four tested factors as an amount (mg/dL). They may also include results in the form of a ratio that helps give your doctor a bigger picture of the good and bad fat in your blood.

Total Cholesterol

The first result is for your total cholesterol, also called your total blood serum cholesterol. This reading estimates all the cholesterol in your blood, including the good and bad. This number alone does not necessarily indicate a health risk because it includes both high-density lipoproteins (HDL) and low-density lipoproteins (LDL).

However, an abnormally high cholesterol reading can be used as a general risk factor for patients who already present with risk factors, such as being male, smoking, being obese, living a sedentary life, or living with hypertension (high blood pressure). To read more on your HDL function check out this blog here. 


The second result measures triglycerides, which are a type of fat commonly accumulated when patients eat more calories than they need. Especially by eating fats and carbohydrates, triglycerides are more likely to be stored in the body as fat cells. If they are not burned off by physical activity, they become fat on the body that eventually makes it into the blood.

Triglycerides are measured to assess a patient’s risk for heart disease, combined with other risk factors like a family history of heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, or obesity.

High-density lipoproteins

High-density lipoproteins or HDL will be listed on your lipid panel results next. HDL is considered the “good” cholesterol because these fats carry the artery-clogging forms of cholesterol out of the bloodstream. Low HDL levels can indicate an imbalanced diet or certain medications such as steroids and beta-blockers. No matter the cause, your doctor may want to investigate it because low HDL levels can put you at risk for heart disease.

Low-density lipoproteins

Finally, low-density lipoproteins or LDL will be listed as an amount in mg/dL. LDL is the “bad” type of cholesterol because it clogs arteries, which increases your risk for heart disease in combination with other risk factors like high blood pressure.

Additional results

After listing each reading, your lipid panel may also list ratios to help you interpret your results. The first of these is a total cholesterol to HDL number. Not all lipid panels list this number, however, it can make interpreting your results easier. It tells your doctor how much of your total cholesterol is HDL (good) and therefore how much of it is LDL (bad).

Even without this ratio on the results, however, since all the numbers are listed separately, you or your doctor could easily come up with the same ratio.


Another reading that a lipid panel sometimes contains is called your VLDL, which stands for “very-low-density lipoprotein.” This measures a type of cholesterol that is even worse than the “bad” kind because it contains even more triglycerides than LDL. Since VLDL levels are only estimates, many lipid panels do not list them.

How to Read a Lipid Panel

Each category of your lipid panel will list an amount either as a measurement in mg/dL or a ratio. You have to interpret these amounts against the norm to determine what your results mean. Here’s a basic guide to doing so. Keep in mind that individual results vary as they can be affected by medications and family history – ask your doctor what your results mean.

Total blood cholesterol – this reading should be lower than 200 mg/dL. 200-239 mg/dL is considered borderline high and should be monitored. High is anything over 240 mg/dL.

High-density lipoprotein – HDL should be 60 mg/dL or higher. Levels below 40 mg/dL are considered low and put the patient at risk for heart disease. Between 40 and 50 mg/dL is considered borderline.

Low-density lipoprotein – The optimum level of LDL is lower than 100 mg/dL. 100-129 mg/dL is nearly optimal, 130-159 mg/dL is borderline, and 160-189 mg/dL is considered high enough to be a risk factor.

Triglycerides – Triglycerides should be lower than 150 mg/dL to be considered normal or not at risk. 150-199 mg/dL is considered borderline, 200-499 mg/dL is high and very high is 500 mg/dL and above, at which point the risk for heart disease is very high.

Closing Thoughts

Cholesterol levels on a lipid panel are not the sole determinant of a patient’s risk for heart disease. They are a tool that a doctor can use to compare to your previous results, your family history, and your other risk factors to determine your individual risk.

Use this brief guide to interpret your results, but ask your doctor in a follow-up visit how they will affect your lifestyle and what your numbers mean for you. To book an appointment for your Lipid Panel you can reach out to us here. 

*This content is for informational purposes only and is not meant to replace consulting with a healthcare professional. Please consult with your primary care physician or healthcare provider before engaging in any services offered by Speedy Sticks.

**These are approximations, and experts disagree on some values. Consult your healthcare provider for recommendations suitable for you. It is also important to ensure the levels are given in the same measurements, such as mg/dL, etc.