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Test Your Cholesterol

Cholesterol is a waxy, fatlike substance that is essential for the normal functioning of the body. Cholesterol is present in cell walls or membranes and is also present in organs like the brain, skin, liver, intestines, and heart. The body uses only a small amount of cholesterol in the blood to make hormones, vitamin D, and bile. Excess of cholesterol in the bloodstream is accumulated in the arteries, like the arteries of the heart, the arteries to the brain, and also the arteries that supply blood to the legs, causing the narrowing and blockage of the arteries leading to decreased blood supply and producing signs and symptoms originating from that part of the body.

High cholesterol does not have any noticeable symptoms and the only way you can know if your levels are too high is to get your cholesterol checked. Your cholesterol numbers gives vital information about the potential of you being at risk from heart disease. A complete cholesterol test is known as a lipid panel or lipid profile in which the blood is tested and the amount of cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood is measured. A complete cholesterol test is known as a lipid panel or lipid profile in which the blood is drawn and the amount of cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood is measured and this test also includes the calculation of four types of lipids in the blood:

  • Total cholesterol: It is the sum of the blood's cholesterol content. Total cholesterol numbers combine levels for HDL, LDL, and a very low-density lipoprotein.
  • High-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol: Also known as "good" cholesterol it helps carry away LDL cholesterol keeping arteries open enabling free flow of blood.
  • Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol: Also called the "bad" cholesterol as too much of it in the blood causes the buildup of plaques in the arteries reducing blood flow. These plaques rupture and can lead to a heart attack or stroke.
  • Triglycerides: Triglycerides are fat deposits that are kept in the body. The triglycerides that is not stored as fat remain in the blood stream which thicken the blood and increases the possibility of clotting and blockage which can eventually lead to a heart attack or stroke. So it is important to keep your triglyceride levels as low as possible. Elevated triglycerides may contribute to a hardening of artery walls, and that increases your risk of having a heart attack or heart disease.

The lipid panel test involves a blood test which is usually done in the morning as fasting is required for accurate results. Blood is taken from a vein, in most of the cases from your arm. The puncture site is cleaned with antiseptic and an elastic band is wrapped around the upper arm and then the needle is inserted. The blood is collected into a vial or syringe and is given for testing.

The lipid panel test will tell you if the level of different lipids in your body is normal or above normal:

  • For total cholesterol:
    • A level of 200 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) is known as normal.
    • 201 to 240 mg/dL is considered to be borderline.
    • More than 240 mg/dL is known as high level.
  • For HDL ("good cholesterol"):
    • HDL 60 mg/dL or higher is good as it decreases the risk of heart disease.
    • HDL between 40 and 59 mg/dL is considered to be acceptable.
    • Less than 40 mg/dL HDL is low which indicates higher chances of getting heart disease.
  • For LDL ("bad cholesterol"):
    • An LDL of less than 100 mg/dL is optimal for people at high risk of heart disease or those with heart disease.
    • An LDL of less than 100 mg/dL is the correct level for people at high risk of heart disease or those with heart disease.
    • An LDL of 100 to 129 mg/dL is the correct level.
    • LDL between 130 and 159 mg/dL is considered to be borderline high.
    • An LDL cholesterol between 160 and 189 mg/dL is on the higher side.
    • An LDL of 190 mg/dL or more is known as very high levels.
  • Your individual LDL goal depends on your risk for heart disease:
    • For people at greater risk of heart disease or those with heart disease are advised to keep the level of LDL less than 100 mg/dL.
    • For people at moderate-to-high risk, an LDL level of less than 130 mg/dL is advised.
    • For people at low-to-moderate risk an LDL level of less than 160 mg/dL is advised.
  • 200 mg/dL or greater level of triglycerides also increases the risk for heart disease. So it is advised to keep the triglycerides below 200mg/Dl.
    • Less than n150 mg/dL: normal
    • 150-199 mg/dL: borderline to high
    • 200-499mg/dL: high
    • Above 500 mg/dL: very high

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