Ask The Doctor: What Does My Lipid Profile Indicate?

by Dr Jonathan D'Souza

In our Ask The Doctor series, Z Living’s in-house health and wellness expert, Dr. Jonathan D’Souza answers your questions and shares his tips for making the rest of your life the best of your life.

Getting a lipid profile test done could be part of a routine health checkup or because your doctor suspects that you may be at a risk of developing heart disease.

Cholesterol is a fatty, wax-like substance made by the liver. The cholesterol made by the liver is sufficient for the entire body. However, eating oily foods can add to the cholesterol levels in the body.

High cholesterol itself doesn’t cause symptoms. However, prolonged high cholesterol levels can cause blockage of the arteries. If cholesterol levels continue to be high, it can cause severe chest pain (angina) caused by lack of blood flow to the heart.

A routine lipid profile test checks the levels of different types of cholesterol in the blood.

1. Low-Density Lipoproteins (LDL)
This type of cholesterol is the main cause of plaque build-up in the arteries. For this reason, it is popularly known as ‘bad cholesterol’. The lower you have LDL levels, the better. High LDL levels are tied with an increased risk of heart attack and stroke. High LDL levels result from obesity, inactivity, and type 2 diabetes. A diet rich in hydrogenated fats, refined carbohydrates, sugar, and saturated animal and trans fats can also increase LDL levels.

2. High-Density Lipoproteins (HDL)
HDL transports bad cholesterol from the blood to liver, from where it is eliminated from the body. Hence, it is popularly known as ‘good cholesterol’. Exercising for at least 15 minutes daily, eating healthy foods and abstaining from smoking can contribute to healthy HDL levels.

3. Triglycerides
Another type of bad cholesterol, triglycerides are linked to heart disease and are stored in fat cells in the body. Health conditions such as hypothyroidism, diabetes, kidney and liver disease, corticosteroids and diets high in refined carbohydrates and sweets can cause high triglyceride levels.

4. Very Low-Density Lipoproteins (VLDL) 
VLDL is made in the liver from dietary triglycerides. There is no method to directly measure VLDL. They are typically estimated by a percentage of the triglyceride. VLDL levels stay high due to the same factors that cause a spike in triglyceride levels. High VLDL levels indicate a possible buildup of plaque in the arteries.

5. LDL/HDL Ratio (5:1)
The ratio of LDL to HDL cholesterol levels is important in predicting your risk for heart disease. According to the American Heart Association, the ratio of LDL:HDL is best kept below 5:1. The ideal ratio of LDL:HDL cholesterol is 3.5:1.

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