What is the lipid profile test?
Lipids are biomolecules, which are present in the bloodstream. They are a group of organic compounds, which form rudimentary components of a cell alongside proteins and carbohydrates. They are also called fats or fatty acids.
They can be present in the form of hormones or present in the membranes of organs, acting as energy stockpiles and chemical messengers. Phospholipids and cholesterol are some common lipids that play multiple roles in bodily functions that are important.
A lipid profile is blood testing used to gauge cholesterol levels. Therefore, the results are used to detect vulnerability to heart disease or the presence of heart disease.
What does the test detect?
A lipid profile test essentially detects the cholesterol levels of the blood serum. There are three types of cholesterols present in the blood:
- High-Density Lipoprotein(HDL)
These are known as good cholesterols and are functional in removing bad cholesterol particles. They carry the bad cholesterol around the heart to the liver, where they are broken down. However, they have limited capacity to do so. They also help in eliminating several toxins present in the body.
- Low-density Lipoprotein (LDL)
These are the bad cholesterols, which narrow the blood vessels and often block the arteries.
- Very low-density lipoprotein(VLDL)
VLDL is also a form of bad cholesterol. It causes severe damage by forming plaque in the lining of the arteries. It is another type of “bad” cholesterol.
Other than the above-listed cholesterol levels, the Lipid profile measures the following:
- Total cholesterol: This is simply the overall amount of lipoproteins in the blood.
- Triglycerides: Triglyceride is a protein stored in the fat. It gets stored when a person’s diet contains food rich in fats and calories, alcohol, drugs, and too much sugar. They can make one vulnerable to heart attack and stroke. The VLDL levels are estimated through them.
The lipid profile results are measured in the unit milligrams per deciliter(mg/dl).
Why is it important?
Cholesterol is important for giving structure to membranes or cell walls. It is a waxy substance and chemically an organic molecule that builds cells. As one can see, it is a vital part of the body.
However, when the levels of low-density cholesterol rise, they can make the individual susceptible to a plethora of diseases, mainly related to the heart. The lipid profile gives measures of these levels and helps in prognosis, diagnosis, and monitoring.
The test is used for prognosis/diagnosis of the following:
- Heart attacks
- Lupus: Hyperactivity of the immune system which results in inflammation in several tissues.
- Kidney diseases
When are lipid profile tests taken?
The lipid test is prescribed by a doctor when:
- You have obesity: Obesity increases the level of LDL in the body. Hence, monitoring the levels is very crucial.
- Substance abuse: If you smoke, drink, or indulge in drug abuse, or if you have a history of substance abuse, your cholesterol level can experience various abnormalities.
- Past results: If you ever detected a high cholesterol level, constant monitoring is wise and advisable.
- Age: After crossing the age of 40, a person becomes vulnerable to high bad cholesterol levels. Hence, a doctor may want you to take the lipid profile test quite often.
- Family history: If people in your family have cholesterol problems, chances are that you have a genetic predisposition to high cholesterol levels.
- Chronic ailments: Diabetes as well as high blood pressure aggravate your disposition to high cholesterol. Thus, you must keep observing the change in cholesterol levels through lipid profile.
The lipid panel test should be taken once a year, even if you are healthy. For those who are predisposed or have high cholesterol, the test is supposed to be taken four times a year to track progress.
What to know before the test
Lipid profile tests are also known as fasting lipid profile testings since they require fasting for 9 hours to 14 hours before the test. The time of fasting is determined by the doctor. You may or may not be allowed to drink water to take your regular medicines. The test results are deemed to be redundant if you do not follow the instructions.
Other than this, fasting lipid profile tests are innocuous. The blood is sampled like any other regular blood test, and you can get the results in 2 days. However, the test can make someone feel drowsy, which is very rare.
What do the results say?
The standard levels of mg/dl vary from lab to lab. However, to give you a rough idea, here is a list of average optimal levels of lipoproteins, which are considered normal lipid profile results.
- The total cholesterol, i.e., the sum of LDL, HDL, and VLDL, must be below 200 mg/dl
- The level of good cholesterol of HDL should not be below 60 mg/dl.
- If you are diabetic, the LDL level must not exceed 70mg/dl. For healthy people, the cap is laid at 100 mg/dL
- The acceptable amount of VLDL estimate is 30mg/dl mostly.
- Lastly, Triglycerides should never exceed the 150 mg/dl mark.
If you notice any deviation from these measures, contacting a qualified physician is advised.