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Discover the Meaning Behind Your Labs

heart labs, cholesterol levels, cardiovascular disease risk

Many heart related diseases can be labeled as “silent killers” meaning we often have little to no physical symptoms or complaints when things start to go awry in our bodies. But have no fear, science is here! A number of tests, such as the lipid profile, are able to asses your risk for cardiovascular related health issues. Yearly physicals with blood work conducted by a physician are the best way to stay on top of what is going on inside your body. Let's break down a lipid profile and what those lab values mean:

Lipid Profile or lipid panel is a blood test that can measure the amount of cholesterol and triglycerides in your blood, another way of saying a measurement of the fat in your blood.

Cholesterol is imperative for enabling the body to make certain hormones, allowing the body to produce vitamin D, making up digestive bile acids in the intestines, and contributing to the structure of cell walls. Cholesterol is unique because our livers create all the cholesterol your body needs to carry on these functions. The biggest culprits to raising cholesterol to an unhealthy level are consuming a diet high in saturated fat and trans fat. Total cholesterol is preferred to remain below 200 mg/dL (milligrams per deciliter). Total cholesterol of 200-239mg/dL is borderline high and 240mg/dL and above is considered high.

High Density Lipoprotein (HDL) is the “good” cholesterol in our bodies. It helps carry away “bad” cholesterol and keep the arteries open and blood flowing more freely. The higher your HDL, the better. A great way to increase HDL is to exercise regularly. An HDL of 60mg/dL or higher is beneficial and reduces the risk of heart disease. An HDL of 40mg/dL or lower is considered a risk factor for heart disease.

Low Density Lipoprotein (LDL) is the “bad” cholesterol in our bodies. Too much of it in your blood causes a buildup of plaque (fatty deposits) in your arteries, which makes the blood's ability to flow through your body harder. The plaque sometimes ruptures and can lead to a heart attack or stroke. The recommendation for LDL cholesterol is below 70mg/dL, however, LDL levels less than 130 mg/dL are considered desirable. If you have a personal history of coronary heart disease or diabetes, or if you have multiple risk factors, your LDL should be below 100mg/dL.

Triglycerides (TG) are a type of fat in the blood. When you eat and your body no longer needs to use the food as fuel, it will convert the calories into triglycerides, which are stored in fat cells. Triglyceride labs can be significantly affected by how recently you’ve eaten, while total cholesterol and HDL are only slightly affected. Triglycerides are categorized in levels:

  • Normal – less than 150 mg/dL

  • Borderline high – 150 to199 mg/dL

  • High – 200 to 499 mg/dL

  • Very high – 500 mg/dL or above

Bottom line: If your results show high or undesirable levels don’t get discouraged. You might be able to affect your scores with lifestyle changes, diet and exercise. It is important to have discussions with your physician about what your numbers mean and any areas of improvement.

Learn more about heart health with the wellness programs offered by Wellness Workdays.

Written by: Claire Rudden, Wellness Workdays Dietetic Intern.


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