The test for total cholesterol is used either alone or as part of a lipid profile to help predict an individual’s risk of developing heart disease and to help make decisions about what treatment may be needed if there is borderline or high risk. As part of a lipid profile (which includes other tests for high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL), low-density lipoprotein cholesterol(LDL), and Triglycerides), it may also be used to monitor the effectiveness of treatment once it is initiated.
Because high blood cholesterol has been associated with hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis), heart disease, and a raised risk of death from heart attacks, cholesterol testing is considered a routine part of preventive healthcare.
The total cholesterol test and other components of the lipid profile are used along with other known risk factors of heart disease to develop a plan of treatment and follow-up. Treatment options may include lifestyle changes such as diet or exercise programs or lipid-lowering drugs such as statins.