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Lipid Profile Test – A guide to understanding cholesterol levels

Introduction and overview of the Lipid Profile Test

The lipid profile test is a blood test that measures the amount of several types of lipids or fats in blood.  It is also referred as complete cholesterol test, lipid panel or( kupima mafuta kwa damu in swahili) 

A lipid profile test helps doctors determine your risk of the buildup of fatty deposits (plaques) in your arteries that can lead to narrowed or blocked arteries throughout your body (atherosclerosis). These deposits are attributed to a number of serious cardiovascular diseases. Clogged heart (coronary) arteries can lead to a heart attacks (Myocardial infarction) while narrowed peripheral arteries lead to hypertension (high blood Pressure) and strokes.

Image illustrating a lipid profile test request form

Indications: Why is a Lipid profile done?

High cholesterol usually causes no signs or symptoms. A lipid profile test is done to determine whether different types of lipids especially cholesterol is high and to estimate your risk of heart attacks and other forms of heart disease and diseases of the blood vessels.

Components of lipid profile.

  1. Total cholesterol. This is a sum of your blood’s cholesterol content.
  2. Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol. This is called the “bad” cholesterol. Too much of it in your blood causes the buildup of fatty deposits (plaques) in your arteries (atherosclerosis), which reduces blood flow. These plaques sometimes rupture and can lead to a heart attack or stroke.
  3. High-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol. This is called the “good” cholesterol because it helps carry away LDL cholesterol, thus keeping arteries open and your blood flowing more freely.
  4. Triglycerides. Triglycerides are a type of fat in the blood. When you eat, your body converts calories it doesn’t need into triglycerides, which are stored in fat cells. High triglyceride levels are associated with several factors, including being overweight, eating too many sweets or drinking too much alcohol, smoking, being sedentary, or having diabetes with elevated blood sugar levels.

Wait, Is all cholesterol bad?

It should be noted that cholesterol together with other lipids mentioned above are not always bad. In fact, these molecules play critical roles in the body including: –

  1. Cholesterol is a component of cellular membrane in all cells
  2.  Precursor molecule in vitamin D as well as steroid hormones such as estrogen, progesterone and testosterone.
  3. Lipids provide the body with a storage mechanism for energy.
  4. Component of Bile acids – important in digestion of fats and fats soluble vitamins

 It’s only when excessive or there’s a derangement in the lipid metabolism that they accumulate and become problematic.

Who should get a lipid profile test?

According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI), a person’s first cholesterol screening should occur between the ages of 9 and 11 and then be repeated every five years after that.

The NHLBI recommends that cholesterol screenings occur every 1 to 2 years for men ages 45 to 65 and for women ages 55 to 65. People over 65 should receive cholesterol tests annually.

More-frequent testing might be needed if your initial test results were abnormal or if you already have coronary artery disease, you’re taking cholesterol-lowering medications or you’re at higher risk of coronary artery disease because you:

  • Have a family history of high cholesterol or heart attacks
  • Are overweight, with BMI exceeding 25
  • Are physically inactive
  • Have diabetes
  • Eat an unhealthy diet
  • Smoke cigarettes

People undergoing treatment for high cholesterol require regular cholesterol testing to monitor the effectiveness of their treatments.

Some laboratories in Kenya such as Metropolis Laboratories  offer lipid profile as part of wellness checkup package often at subsidized rates.

Preparation and instructions for the test

Fasting for up to 12 hours is recommended before blood for lipid test is drawn. This ensures a more accurate reflection of blood cholesterol level and not from a recent meal. 

It’s important to tell your doctor all the medication, herbal as well as supplements you are taking as these may have a bearing when interpreting the results. Normal diet is resumed immediately after the test sample is taken.

How a lipid Profile test is done

Once the doctor orders the test, you may be sent to the laboratory to have a blood draw. Typically, venous blood is drawn from the vein from your forearm. The collection bottle should contain a clot activator and plasma separator and is typically yellow topped.

The analysis itself is nowadays done by automated instruments, such as Alinity from Abott and Cobas system from Roche, to mention a few.  Once the analysis is completed, the machine prints out the results. The laboratory technician or pathologist counter checks the results to ensure their validity before signing them out.

Quality control ensures the results are accurate and will have meaningful contribution to patient care.

How long Will I wait for Lipid profile Results?

The waiting time, or Turnaround Time (TAT) in laboratory lingo can vary between a few hours to up-to 3 days. This Is because the laboratory may wait to accumulate tests and run them together (called batching). This reduces the cost of each test. However, in emergencies tests may be run individually and results become available much faster.

Tips on Lipid profile Testing

  1. Whenever possible, always have the test done in the same laboratory(or using the same platform)
  2. Go for regular lipid profile test as advised by your doctor or clinician..

Reference Values of Lipid Profile

Reference values are sort of guideposts to help us interpret laboratory test results. Through many years of research, the various cut-off for each component of lipid profile test has been established and is presented below.

ComponentReference (recommended Range)Borderline HighElevated 
Total Cholesterol ( Tchol)100-200 mg/dL 200-239 mg/dLAbove 240 mg/dL
Reference range for Total Cholesterol
ComponentReference (recommended Range) Moderate RiskHigh Risk
(High Density Lipoprotein)
More than 60 mg/dl40-60md/dLLess than 40 mg/dL
Reference range for HDL
(Low Density Lipoprotein)
Reference (recommended Range) BorderlineHighVery High
Less than 100mg/dl100-160 mg/dl160-190mg /dlOver 190mg/dl
Reference range for LDL
Triglycerides (TGs) Reference (recommended Range)BorderlineHighVery High
Less than 150 mg/dl150-200 mg/dl200-500 mg /dlOver 500 mg/dl
Reference range for TGs

Note: To view reference ranges of all tests – click here 

Interpretation of the Lipid profile Test

The cutoffs above are considered guidelines and specific interpretation vary from one individual to another.

Generally, total cholesterol level between 200 to 240 mg/dl is considered borderline high and reflects moderate risk for heart disease. Your doctor may order additional tests such as blood sugar tests, to further characterize your condition. 

Once evaluation and testing is completed, the doctor typically works with the individual on ways to lower cholesterol levels. These often include lifestyle modifications that encompass better diet, increased physical exercise.
If these fail or the cholesterol levels are too high, medications to lower cholesterol levels are prescribed.

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Cost of lipid profile Test in Kenya:

The cost of a lipid profile test in Kenya may vary depending on the healthcare provider and location. On average, the cost ranges from KES 2,000 to KES 4,000. It is recommended to check with the specific healthcare facility to obtain accurate pricing information. The National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF) and private insurance like Jubilee and Britam cover the cost of the test, pre-authorisation may be necessary.

Pro Tip: Always remember to ask for a discount. Most standalone laboratories offer up-to 10% discount

Note: We maintain a laboratory test price survey for all tests in Kenya. Click here to view the price of any test.

Where can I get My Lipid Profile done in Kenya?

Many laboratories have lipid profile test in their test menu. This can range from public hospitals such as Kenyatta National hospital, K.U. Hospital as well as county and some sub county hospitals. In addition, many mission hospitals like Mater Hospital and private one like Aga Khan Hospital and Nairobi Hospital perform the tests. Stand-alone laboratories such as Metropolis, Lancet and Pathcare have the tests and often have more straight forward testing experience. Some accept walk-in request in case you don’t or can’t go to a doctor to write a request or you. For routine or otherwise scheduled tests, some laboratories offer home or workplace sample collection for added convenience

You can get information about nearest laboratory from our directory here


Regular monitoring of lipid levels through a lipid profile test is crucial for assessing cardiovascular health and managing the risk of heart disease. By understanding the role of lipids in the body, and regular measurement, individuals can take proactive steps towards maintaining optimal lipid levels. 

Consultation with a healthcare provider is essential for the accurate interpretation of test results and the formulation of an appropriate treatment plan, if needed. Remember, a healthy lifestyle and regular screenings can significantly contribute to overall well-being and longevity.

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Hope this article helps you understand the basics of lipid profile test. Incase of any questions don’t hesitate to contact us or comment below.

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Till next time, happy and healthy living!

Team labtestzote.