What is a lipid panel?

November 12, 2012

What is a lipid panel?

Lipid panels are used to determine the amount of cholesterol in your blood at any given time.

A lipid panel is used to determine the risk of heart attack, stroke or vascular disease in an individual. Several tests will be carried out in order to examine levels of cholesterol and triglycerides. A lipid panel is carried out after a blood test is performed and is a combination of several tests.

Total cholesterol level

A lipid panel test will establish the total amount of cholesterol in the bloodstream. Cholesterol – the lipids – is found in all body cells and appears as a soft, waxy substance. The body needs some cholesterol for normal, everyday function but too much can lead to narrowing of the arteries and cardiac disease.

High cholesterol is a known risk factor for cardiac disease and one which can be controlled. Cholesterol levels of over 140 mg/dl means a higher risk of coronary heart disease and in individuals who have a level of greater than 250 mg/dl the risk of heart attack is three times that of those whose level is below 200 mg/dl.

HDL – High Density Lipoprotein

A lipid panel test will also measure the levels of HDL – or ‘good’ cholesterol in the blood. HDL is known to remove excess cholesterol from the body and take it to the liver where it is disposed of. HDLs have high protein levels and low amounts of fat – it is thought that HDL may reduce or reverse the progress of clogging of the arteries and that those individuals with naturally high levels of HDL may be at less risk of developing coronary heart disease


LDL – Low Density Lipoprotein

LDL is the ‘bad’ cholesterol which is responsible for clogging of the arteries. LDLs contain most of the body’s cholesterol and their composition reflects that – 75% cholesterol. The body needs some LDLs in order to deliver required cholesterol, however too much LDL may lead to atherosclerosis – a cholesterol build up in the lining of the arteries.


Triglyceride levels will also be examined during a lipid panel test. Triglycerides provide energy, in the form of fat, to the cells in the body. Some triglycerides are naturally produced in the body, others come from the food we eat – excess calories are changed into triglycerides and stored in fat cells until required. It follows then that eating excess amounts of calories will result in a high level of triglycerides – this effect is increased when a diet includes large amounts of saturated fats.

Triglycerides combine with cholesterol and protein in the body to form lipoproteins – a diet high in triglycerides will result in higher levels of LDLs.

VLDL – Very Low Density Lipoprotein

VLDLs contain large amounts of triglycerides with scarcely any protein; the role VLDL in the body is to transport triglycerides produced in the liver. It does, however, contribute to the build- up of cholesterol on artery walls and is, therefore, considered to be a ‘bad’ protein.

Normal lipid panel results

Test values for patients with no cardiac disease will differ from those of patients with an existing coronary condition.

Total cholesterol level less than 200 mg/dl

HDL cholesterol level greater than 40 mg/dl

LDL cholesterol level 60 – 130 mg/dl

Triglyceride level 10 – 150 mg/dl

VLDL level 2 – 38 mg/dl

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