The Lipid Profile Test
When is a lipid profile test done?
Screening tests for lipid profiles are recommended for adults of 20 years or more. I have seen many patients who are under 15 but still have a huge risk for heart disease due to the modern lifestyle. People less than 20 years of age may be screened if they suffer from the following risk factors for atherosclerosis:-
- High blood pressure
- Premature heart disease or very high cholesterol level in the immediate family
- In the case of smokers.
If the blood test is normal, it should be repeated every 5 years. The blood tests should be done after overnight fasting. (http://www.medindia.net/health-screening-test/lipid-profile-screening.htm)
What exactly is a lipid profile test?
Lipid profile is a panel of blood tests that serves as an initial broad medical screening tool for abnormalities in lipids, such as cholesterol and triglycerides. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lipid_profile)
Components:- The lipid profile typically includes:
- Low-density lipoprotein(LDL)
- High-density lipoprotein(HDL)
- Cholesterol / HDL Ratio
Each component is further broken down below:
LDL (low-density lipoprotein): A molecule that is a combination of lipid (fat) and protein. Lipoproteins are the form in which lipids are transported in the blood.
Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) transports cholesterol from the liver to the tissues of the body. LDL cholesterol is therefore considered the "bad" cholesterol (http://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=6232)
HDL (High-Density Lipoprotein): These lipoproteins are often referred to as HDL, or "good," cholesterol. They act as cholesterol scavengers, picking up excess cholesterol in your blood and taking it back to your liver where it's broken down. The higher your HDL level, the less "bad" cholesterol you'll have in your blood. (http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/high-blood-cholesterol/in-depth/hdl-cholesterol/art-20046388)
Triglycerides are chemical compounds digested by the body to provide it with the energy for metabolism. Triglycerides are the most common form of fat in the body and also the most common that we digest. They are the main ingredient in vegetable oils and animal fats.
Elevated triglyceride levels are a risk factor for atherosclerosis. The narrowing of arteries with the buildup of fatty plaques that may lead to heart attack, stroke, and peripheral artery disease. Markedly elevated triglyceride levels may also cause fatty liver disease and pancreatitis. (http://www.medicinenet.com/triglyceride_test/article.htm)
Cholesterol is found in every cell of the body and has important natural functions. It is manufactured by the body but can also be taken from food. It has wax and fat-like in appearance. Cholesterol is oil-based and so does not mix with the blood, which is water-based. It is therefore carried around the body in the blood by lipoproteins.
High cholesterol is a major risk factor for coronary heart disease, a cause of heart attacks. If you reduce the blood lipid levels, then the risk for cardiovascular diseases also reduces. (http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/9152.php)
Very-low-density lipoprotein (VLDL) cholesterol is produced in the liver and released into the bloodstream to supply body tissues with a type of fat (triglycerides).
Each type of lipoprotein contains a mixture of cholesterol, protein, and triglycerides, but in varying amounts. About half of a VLDL particle is made up of triglycerides.
High levels of VLDL cholesterol have been associated with the development of plaque deposits on artery walls, which narrows the passage and restricts blood flow.
Your cholesterol ratio is calculated by dividing your total cholesterol by your HDL number.
For instance, if your total cholesterol is 180 and your HDL is 82, your cholesterol ratio is 2.2.
According to the American Heart Association (AHA), you should aim to keep your ratio below 5.
According to Harvard Medical School, a cholesterol ratio of 5 indicates the average risk of heart disease for men.
A man has double the risk for heart disease if their ratio reaches 9.6 and has roughly half the average risk for heart disease with a cholesterol ratio of 3.4.
For women, a 4.4 ratio indicates an average risk for heart disease. Women’s heart disease risk doubles if their ratio is 7, while a ratio of 3.3 signifies roughly half the average risk. (http://www.healthline.com/health-slideshow/cholesterol-ratio#4)
If your lipid panel test results aren't what you hoped for, take action. I would recommend everyone with an abnormal lipid profile test to make lifestyle changes to reduce the risk of heart disease, including:
Diet: One should follow a cholesterol low diet. A cholesterol-lowering diet can reduce bad cholesterol by up to 30%.
Exercise: Regular aerobic exercise can both lower bad cholesterol (LDL) and increase good cholesterol (HDL).
Do let us know in your comments below if there are any other tests that you would like to know more about.