September is National Cholesterol Education Month, which means it is a good time to get your blood cholesterol checked and take steps to lower it if it is high. It is also an opportunity to learn about lipid profiles, and food and lifestyle choices that help you reduce blood cholesterol levels.
Lipids are a group of fats and fat-like substances that make up cells and are sources of energy. A lipid panel measures the level of specific lipids in the blood.
Two important lipids, cholesterol and triglycerides, are particles transported in the blood. The particles measured with a lipid profile are classified by their density into high-density lipoproteins (HDL), low-density lipoproteins (LDL) and very low-density lipoproteins (VLDL).
Monitoring and maintaining healthy levels of these lipids is important in staying healthy. While the body produces the cholesterol needed to function properly, the source for some cholesterol is your diet. Eating too many foods that are high in saturated fats and trans unsaturated fats (trans fats) or having an inherited predisposition can result in a high level of cholesterol in the blood. The extra cholesterol may be deposited in plaques on the walls of blood vessels. Plaques can narrow or eventually block the opening of blood vessels, leading to hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis) and increasing the risk of numerous health problems, including heart disease and stroke. A high level of triglycerides in the blood is also associated with an increased risk of developing cardiovascular disease, although the reason for this is not well understood.
A lipid panel usually includes:
High-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C)— often called “good cholesterol” because it removes excess cholesterol and carries it to the liver for removal.
Low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C)— often called “bad cholesterol” because it deposits excess cholesterol in walls of blood vessels, which can contribute to atherosclerosis.
Typically, fasting for 9-12 hours before having the blood sample drawn is required; only water is permitted. Follow any instructions you are given and be sure to tell the person drawing your blood whether or not you have fasted.
The latest guidelines include a newly developed, evidence-based risk calculator for ASCVD used to identify individuals most likely to benefit from therapy. Many factors are considered in the calculation, including age, gender, race, total cholesterol, HDL-C, blood pressure, presence of diabetes, and smoking habits.
One of the benefits of a Spry membership is the relationship you have with us as physicians and the ability to talk about things like cholesterol, diet, and exercise. Our members can also have their blood drawn on site, making it more convenient for you to complete the tests you need and avoid another appointment or wait time during your day.