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Deciphering the Lipid Profile

0ne day, you are a healthy young person at the top of the game of life. The next day, you are chasing your breath and getting weaker every passing second – signs that you might be having a sudden treacherous attack.

What exactly are these attacks? What are these threats to life which have become the modern commotion?
These are the heart diseases caused by high cholesterol levels in the blood. High cholesterol levels cause the arteries to harden, thus blocking the flow of blood to the heart and other organs. Hardened arteries if left untreated may eventually lead to heart attack and stroke. To avoid such complications, it is best to know and monitor one’s cholesterol level. But the big question is how? The answer would be a simple lipid profile test.

What is the lipid profile test?
Lipids are types of fat that are not dissolved in the body and attach to certain proteins. As these lipids attach to the proteins, they are now called lipoproteins. The amount of lipoproteins vary with each individual as a result of diet, illness, and one’s genetic make-up. Specifically, the lipid profile test includes the measurement of triglyceride (TRIG), high density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, and total blood cholesterol level.

Triglyceride is a kind of fat and is usually associated with lifestyle. A high TRIG may be accompanied by high LDL, and low HDL levels. LDL is also known as the “bad cholesterol” for it is responsible for carrying cholesterol into the arteries that may increase the risk of heart problems or stroke. Meanwhile, HDL is the one responsible far removing cholesterol from body tissues, carrying it to the liver for disposal, thus the name “good cholesterol.” The serum level is basically the totality of the HDL, LDL and TRIG levels combined.

What should the ideal cholesterol level be?
A total cholesterol below 200 mg/dL may represent -a low risk for heart problems and therefore, most desirable. A range of 200 to 240 mg/dL cholesterol is considered as “borderline”, thus proper preventive actions must be prescribed by the doctor to prevent heart disease. But a cholesterol level of 240 mg/dL or more indicates a high risk and proper and immediate treatment must be done at once.For people with diabetes, cholesterol targets are more stringent compared to the general population. Target LDL or bad cholesterol level for patients with diabetes is below 100 mg/dL or even 70 mg/dL in those with overt heart disease. Ideal HDL or good cholesterol levels are above 40 mg/dL for men and 50 mg/dL for women. Goal TRIG levels must be below 150 mg/dL.

High levels of cholesterol signifies that a person may be overweight or obese or may have diet problems, or is consuming high caloric diets. It may also indicate stress or lack of exercise. But mostly, it can denote the existence of serious problems with the bile ducts, thyroid glands, diabetes, and other heart-related health problems. On the other hand, having an abnormally low level of cholesterol may be an indication of a thyroid problem, liver disease and malnutrition.

How often should a lipid profile test be done?
Because the lipid profile is affected by lifestyle, diet, and other factors, it is recommended that all adults must go through the test altogether with other physical exams once every five years. But for those who are previously diagnosed with high serum level, as well as low HDL, over 50 years of age and has a heart problem history, it is advised that the test be done more often or as what the physician recommends. This is because a lipid profile test can track the changes that may occur with the lipid levels and could help monitor the effect of certain treatments.

How is it done?
Before taking these tests, it is better to be familiar with how it is done. A lipid profile test is actually just a
sample blood test. Before taking the test, a person needs to fast or avoid consuming any food or beverage, nine to 12 hours prior to the lipid test. The reason is to have a clear grasp of the LDL level and TRIG level as these two are the most sensitive to what a person consumes. Although, the lipid profile test may not    exactly determine the precise disease a person may have, cholesterol levels or the results of this particular test, it however allows the physician to monitor the risk of developing diseases, but not to specifically diagnose.

Prevention is still the best option. Therefore, since one’s cholesterol level is affected by what one consumes, it is better to follow a proper diet. A healthy lifestyle with regular physical exercise or avoiding harmful vices such as cigarettes and excessive alcohol intake will also do a lot to achieve normal cholesterol of heart disease.

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