Understanding Your Risk for Heart and Blood Vessel Disease

A complete cholesterol test is also called a lipid panel or lipid profile. This test is done to measure and assess the amount of “good” and “bad” cholesterol as well as triglycerides, a type of fat, in your blood.

At some point in your life, your healthcare provider, may request you to test your blood lipid profile in order to assess your risk of heart and blood vessel disease.

Here’s what you need to know to understand your results better.

What’s in a “Blood Lipid Profile Test”?

A blood lipid profile will measure 4 main constituents namely:

  1. Total Cholesterol (T-Chol)

Cholesterol is a type of fat, found in your blood. It is produced by your body.  It also comes from the foods you eat, such as animal products. Cholesterol is needed by your body to maintain the health of your cells. Too much cholesterol leads to coronary artery disease. Your blood cholesterol level is influenced by the foods you eat or may be due to genetics (hereditary traits passed down from one generation to the next).

T-Chol is directly linked to risk of heart and blood vessel disease. Keeping T-Chol within the normal range of 2.8-4.9mmol/l (Ampath Lab) or normal value of <5.0mmol/l (Lancet Lab) is recommended.

  • High Density Lipoprotein Cholesterol (HDL-C)

HDL-C is a lipoprotein (a combination of fat and protein) found in the blood. It is the “good” cholesterol because it removes excess cholesterol from the blood and takes it to the liver. A high HDL-C level is related to a lower risk of heart and blood vessel disease.

HDL-C levels > 1.0mmol/l (Lancet) or > 1.2-1.9mmol/l (Ampath) is linked to a reduced risk of heart and blood vessel disease. The higher your HDL-C level, the better.

  • Low Density Lipoprotein Cholesterol (LDL-C)

LDL-C is a lipoprotein (a combination of fat and protein) found in the blood. It is the “bad” cholesterol because it picks up cholesterol from the blood and takes it to the cells. A high LDL-C level is related to a higher risk of heart and blood vessel disease.

A high level of LDL-C, above the normal range of 1.5-2.9mmol/l (Ampath Lab) or above the normal value of 3mmol/L (Lancet Lab), is linked to an increased risk of heart and blood vessel disease, including coronary artery disease, heart attack and death. Reducing LDL-C levels is a major treatment target when starting cholesterol-lowering medications.

  • Triglycerides (TG)

Triglycerides are a type of fat found in the blood. The blood level of this type of fat is most affected by the foods you eat (such as sugar, fat or alcohol) but can also be high due to being overweight, having thyroid or liver disease and genetic conditions.

A high triglyceride level of >1.7mmol/l (Lancet) or > 0.4-1.6mmol/l (Ampath) is related to a higher risk of heart and blood vessel disease.

To find out more information about your blood lipids, make sure to book your online or live nutritional consultation session with your nearest dietician.

Written by: Nasreen Goolam Hoosen, RD(SA)

About the author:

Tanya has been providing dietary guidance since 2009 as a registered dietician licensed in South Africa. Her goal is to help patients understand the connection between diet and diagnosis for improved nutritional well being.

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