For anyone who is over the age of 20, cholesterol levels should be checked intermittently every 5 years to keep a track record of health. The test used to screen cholesterol levels is known as lipid profile, and it is recommended by experts that women above the age of 45 years and men above the age of 35 years should get frequent screenings done to check for lipid disorders.
The aspects covered by the lipoprotein profile include the following:
- Total cholesterol
- LDL (low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, more famously known as “bad” cholesterol)
- HDL (high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, more commonly known as “good” cholesterol)
- Triglycerides (fats that are carried into the blood from the food that is consumed. Too much of alcohol, sugar or calories in the body get converted to triglycerides that are stored in fat cells throughout the body.)
The results of the blood test for the lipid profile come in the forms of numbers. The numbers indicated in the test should not be the only proof to predict the risk of any potential heart problems. They also cannot help formulate ways in which the predicted risk can be lowered. These numbers are simply part of a much larger equation under which other factors like age, blood pressure, sugar levels, hormone profile, smoking habits, use of medications and other factors are also accounted for. This complete information profile is used by the doctor to calculate the 10-year risk a person may be at for serious heart problems. Once the key areas have been identified, a health strategy may be developed to reduce the risk.
The test report shows all cholesterol levels in a measure of milligrams per deciliter of blood (mg/dL). Total cholesterol and HDL (good) cholesterol are one of the many factors that are considered by a doctor to predict a 10-year risk assessment or a lifetime risk assessment regarding heart disease, like heart attacks or strokes.
Types of Cholesterol
- LDL Cholesterol: LDL stands for Low-Density Lipoprotein and is known as ‘bad’ cholesterol that builds up on the walls of the arteries, thereby increasing the chances of a person getting a heart disease. A lower LDL number means there is a lower risk of heart disease. A figure of 190 or more is considered to be a very high LDL number, and most doctors prescribe immediate lifestyle changes along with statins that are medicines to bring about normal cholesterol levels. Even if the LDL is lower than 190, a statin may be recommended. Having considered the 10-year risk, a doctor can recommend a specific percentage by which a person needs to lower their LDL risk through lifestyle changes that include exercise, diet and any medication as required.
- HDL Cholesterol: HDL or High-Density Lipoproteins is known as ‘good’ cholesterol, meaning that a high number of HDL relates to lower risk. HHDL essentially protects the heart against heart disease by taking the bad cholesterol or LDL out of the blood and prevents it from building up within the walls of the artery. Previously, for many years, doctors evaluated HDL cholesterol levels using ranges of numbers. This method led to the measuring of risk in broader terms by evaluating HDL cholesterol levels with context to other risk factors like age, exercise, regular diet, etc., which are an important mark of a person’s health. HDL cholesterol gets lowered due to factors like smoking, sedentary lifestyle, overweight, type 2 diabetes and some genetic factors. A high level of blood triglycerides also points toward lower HDL; women, in general, have higher levels of HDL as compared to men. The most common and proven methods of increasing the HDL levels include exercise and statin medications.
- Triglycerides: Triglycerides are fats that are stored throughout the body as well as are present in the food. High triglyceride levels have always been linked to a high risk of coronary artery disease. Triglycerides are categorized according to the risk they pose in the following manner:
- 500 or higher
- Very high
- 200 – 499
- 150 – 199
- Mildly High
- Less than 150
- Total blood (serum) Cholesterol: The total cholesterol or the total blood cholesterol is, therefore, a measure of HDL cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and other lipid components. It is not a type of cholesterol but instead is a composite of the different types of cholesterol. The total cholesterol score includes HDL score, LDL score and 20% of the triglyceride level added together. The risk for heart disease is determined by the total cholesterol number by a doctor, who can devise a medical health plan to lower the risk.
Overall, routine checkups, an active lifestyle, and a clean diet with a minimal intake of triglycerides are said to help maintain healthy and normal cholesterol levels.