All about lipid panels
Lipid is merely another word for fat and generally refers to those fatty acids, or their derivatives, which are insoluble in water. Lipids are found in the bloodstream and stored in body tissue – they are essential for healthy, normal bodily functions and are an important part of cell makeup.
A lipid panel therefore is a diagnostic tool used to measure the levels of fat in the body – in particular those fats related to cholesterol, namely LDL, HDL and triglycerides. A lipid panel may be carried out as part of a normal, regular health examination and the results may be used to prevent, diagnose or monitor any medical conditions that may be the result of a lipid disorder.
Lipid levels are determined after a fasting blood test has been carried out – this is a blood test carried out after a twelve hour fasting period. The level of lipids in the blood is known to be directly related to the amount of dietary fats and carbohydrates consumed by an individual.
Any lipid disorder requires treatment that may include lifestyle changes such as weight loss, increased exercise levels and dietary changes, as well as medications.
A lipid panel looks at a number of items including -
- Total cholesterol levels
- Triglyceride levels
- Ratio of HDL to LDL
- Ratio of total cholesterol to LDL
- Levels of VLDL (very low density lipoprotein)
A lipid panel is used to determine the level of LDL cholesterol in the bloodstream – Low Density Lipoprotein. This type of lipid is commonly referred to as bad cholesterol since it is directly related to the build up of plaque on the arterial walls as it carries cholesterol through the blood stream to the body tissues. This build up of plaque is known as atherosclerosis and is a known risk factor for cardiac disease and stroke.
A healthy level of LDL is less than 100mg/dL. – should a lipid panel reveal a higher level of LDL then the patient should implement dietary changes and increase levels of exercise.
High Density Lipoproteins – or HDLs, are the good cholesterol fats and actively work to reduce the levels of LDL in the bloodstream – which, in turn, means that HDLs also protects against cardiac disease and stroke and lowers the risk factors for those health conditions. Low levels of HDL, when revealed in a lipid panel test, may be improved by the increased consumption of healthy fats – such as those rich in Omega-3 and 6, found in oily fish and some nuts and seeds.
Finally, a lipid panel will reveal the levels of triglycerides in the bloodstream. A healthy triglyceride level is considered to be less than 150 mg/dL – however, in countries with low rates of heart disease, the levels of triglyceride are seen to average less than 100 mg/dL.
Unlike cholesterol levels the level of triglyceride may be affected by short term factors such as dehydration or activity. However, if there is no obvious cause of a high triglyceride level your medical practitioner may recommend dietary changes or a diabetes test.