Cholesterol Testing: How to Understand Your Test Results
In the US, there are 94 million Americans over the age of 20 whose cholesterol is higher than 200 mg/dL. 28 million Americans cholesterol test results put them over 240 mg/dL.
If you’ve never had cholesterol testing, then you might not know those millions of Americans have dangerously high levels of cholesterol.
The scary truth for these millions of people is that they have no symptoms warning them of their cholesterol levels. Yet, this high cholesterol puts them at risk for a variety of serious illnesses, including heart disease and stroke.
Read on to learn more about cholesterol, why testing is important, and what information the test results will provide.
What Is a Cholesterol Test?
A cholesterol test, which is also referred to as a lipid test or a lipid panel, is a blood test. The completed blood test measures cholesterol and triglyceride levels found in the blood at the time of the test.
When a cholesterol test’s done, it can provide information about the risk of the buildup of fatty deposits (plaques) that might present in the arteries. Too much plaque in the arteries can lead to narrowed or clogged arteries.
What Is a Cholesterol Test Measuring?
A cholesterol test gets done to see if the person has high cholesterol. Even though high levels of cholesterol don’t present with any symptoms, they can lead to other serious health issues.
The cholesterol test will tell if:
- Cholesterol is high
- Estimate your risk of heart attacks
- Give an indication of other forms of heart disease and diseases of the blood vessels
When a cholesterol test’s done, it measures the four types of fats in your blood. These help to identify whether you’re at risk for high cholesterol.
Let’s take a closer look at what’s measured in a cholesterol test and what it means.
Low-Density Lipoprotein (LDL) Cholesterol
Cholesterol tests measure both low-density and high-density lipoprotein in the blood. Low-density lipoprotein or LDL is considered the bad version of lipoprotein.
When you have a high level of LDL or bad cholesterol, you run the risk of it building up in your arteries.
These fatty deposits can sit in arteries and reduce the blood flow through your body. When the levels of LDL get too high, they can rupture which can cause a heart attack or stroke.
High-Density Lipoprotein (HDL) Cholesterol
High-density lipoprotein is considered the good kind of cholesterol. You actually want to have some levels of HDL in your blood.
The role of HDL is to counteract LDL. It goes through your veins and breaks down and carries away the LDL that might be building up in your veins.
It’s called good cholesterol because it helps to keep your arteries open so that you have healthy blood flow in your body.
To maintain healthy levels of HDL, avoid foods heavy in trans fats and smoking. Some studies show that moderate levels of alcohol consumption can actually increase HDL levels.
When you eat, your body goes to work on the food to break it down. It will break down the fats found in your foods into smaller molecules called triglycerides.
High levels of triglycerides put you at increased risk for cardiovascular disease. You might have high triglyceride numbers if you have:
- Unmanaged diabetes
- Too much alcohol consumption
- A high-calorie diet
By monitoring diet, alcohol consumption, and overall health, you can help to control the level of triglycerides in your blood.
Very Low-Density Lipoprotein (VLDL)
Another type of cholesterol in the blood is very low-density lipoprotein (VLDL). High levels of VLDL can also lead to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.
Interestingly, VLDL isn’t directly measured when a cholesterol test is done. Instead, the results of the test are used to calculate VLDL.
Treatment for high cholesterol also isn’t based on VLDL. VLDL is gauged at a percentage of the total triglycerides in the blood.
When you have a cholesterol test, you will get your total cholesterol levels. Total cholesterol is the sum of your LDL, HDL, and VLDL cholesterol.
When a cholesterol test is completed, the total cholesterol and HDL cholesterol are what’s actually measured. The LDL and VLDL are calculated numbers that come from the results of total cholesterol, HDL, and triglycerides.
Cholesterol Test Results
So, as you get test results from a cholesterol test, you want to understand if the numbers tell you that you have high cholesterol or low cholesterol.
When a cholesterol test is completed, it measures the cholesterol and triglyceride levels in milligrams (mg) of cholesterol per deciliter (dL) of blood.
To have ideal cholesterol for the average person, you might want to see these levels:
- LDL: less than 100 mg/dL
- HDL: 40 to 60 mg/dL (a higher number is better)
- Total cholesterol: less than 200 mg/dL
- Triglycerides: less than 150 mg/dL
- VLDL levels: under 30 mg/dL
Of course, ideal test results will vary based on gender, age, and other health factors.
Cholesterol Testing Errors
If you have results that are unfavorable when you get tested or results that don’t make sense based on your lifestyle, it might make sense to be tested again.
Errors can occur in testing. Testing errors might come from improper fasting, medications, human error, and other factors.
Ask that when your cholesterol is tested, both HDL and LDL levels are tested versus just testing the LDL levels alone.
Get the Tools You Need to Monitor Cholesterol
Since cholesterol is a hidden danger that doesn’t present itself if you have high cholesterol, the importance of cholesterol testing can’t be over-emphasized.
Visit Precision Labs to get more information on cholesterol testing kits.