Cholesterol and triglyceride tests are blood tests which measure the quantity of lipids (cholesterol and triglycerides) in the blood. Cholesterol is bound to a protein as it travels in the blood. This cholesterol-protein package is known as a lipoprotein. The body uses cholesterol to build cells and produce hormones.
Excessive amounts of cholesterol in the blood can lead to deposits in the blood vessels ("hardening of the arteries"), which increases the risk of cardiovascular disease such as heart attack or stroke. A test can detect these risks and allow you to start treatment which will reduce the risk. Some people have a disorder which disrupts the metabolism and makes it difficult for the body to process fats correctly. A cholesterol test can help doctors to detect that disease. Similarly, the test helps doctors to see how the body reacts to medical treatment of diseases of this kind. For adults, it is considered appropriate to check cholesterol levels every 4 to 6 years, particularly if you are at risk of cardiovascular disease.
High levels are seen in primary and secondary hyperlipoproteinaemia. The secondary levels are seen in cases of hypothyroidism, nephrotic syndrome, cholestatic liver disease and diabetes mellitus, for instance.
Low levels are seen in patients with hyperthyroidism, malabsorption and congenital beta lipoprotein deficiency (acanthocytosis).