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Understanding the Different Types of Cholesterol

Understanding the Different Types of Cholesterol

Max Lab

Nov 24, 2023

Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance and steroid found in the cells of the body. It is also naturally present in some foods, including meat, eggs, and dairy products. While some cholesterol is vital for hormone production and vitamin D synthesis, excessive cholesterol levels are linked to an increased risk of heart disease. Cholesterol levels are measured as milligrams (mg) per decilitre (dL) of blood in a cholesterol profile test.

What are the Different Types of Cholesterol?

For a healthy heart, knowing the different types of cholesterol is encouraged. With a cholesterol test, each type of cholesterol is determined by the lipoprotein that transports cholesterol through the body. Mentioned below are four different types of cholesterol:

LDL Test

LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol is often referred to as the "bad" type of cholesterol. An LDL test may be recommended to diagnose high cholesterol in the blood. The higher one's LDL cholesterol level is, the greater the risk of arterial blockages forming from fatty deposits. While LDL cholesterol cannot and should not be completely eliminated since cells need some LDL to produce hormones, lower LDL levels are better for the overall well-being of an individual. When checking the normal cholesterol serum levels, the LDL should be on the lower side as it reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease risks.

HDL Test

HDL stands for high-density lipoprotein. This is known as the "good" type of cholesterol. HDL carries cholesterol from the tissues back to the liver, where it can be eliminated from the body. So, HDL helps remove excess cholesterol. An HDL test may be recommended to measure the level of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol in the blood. Higher HDL levels are associated with a lower risk of heart disease. This is because it helps prevent cholesterol build-up in artery walls by transporting cholesterol away from arteries and back to the liver. On the other hand, low HDL cholesterol increases the risk of heart disease.

Total Cholesterol Test

This is a measure of LDL, HDL, and other lipid components. Quite simply, it is the total amount of cholesterol, including all its types, present in the blood. In cases where the risk of heart-related diseases is high, the total cholesterol level is analysed by a doctor at frequent intervals of time.

Triglycerides Test

The main form of fat in the body. When the triglyceride levels are high, the “good” cholesterol (HDL) is low. Similarly, if the triglyceride levels are normal, the “bad” cholesterol (LDL) is low in the blood.

In addition to this, cholesterol is carried through the blood by molecules called lipoproteins. The following are types of lipoproteins that help analyse one’s heart health:

VLDL Test

Very low-density lipoproteins, produced in the liver, are responsible for transporting triglycerides in the blood. Like LDL, increased VLDL levels can increase the scope of plaque build-up in the arteries. Taking this into account, the risk of heart disease can be assessed with the help of a VLDL test.

Lipoprotein(a)

A genetic form of LDL that can increase the risk of heart disease. Thus, it is important to keep a check on the lipoprotein(a) levels among people with pre-existed heart issues, the elderly, and immuno-suppressed cases.

A simple lipid panel blood test can measure total cholesterol, LDL, HDL, and triglycerides. Keeping cholesterol levels within healthy ranges reduces the risk of heart disease and stroke.

Why is Managing Cholesterol Important?

Elevated cholesterol levels in the blood can lead to a build-up of plaque inside the arteries, called atherosclerosis.  This plaque narrows the inside of arteries and makes them stiff and inflexible.  When atherosclerosis affects the arteries supplying blood to the heart, it is known as coronary artery disease.  In the arteries of the brain, it is referred to as carotid artery disease.

Plaque build-up causes restricted blood flow which reduces oxygen supply to vital organs.  If blood flow is fully blocked, it can result in a heart attack or stroke. High cholesterol also increases the risk of health issues like sudden cardiac arrest, peripheral arterial disease, and vascular problems.  Ensuring that the different types of cholesterol are at normal levels is important to promote healthy blood flow and prevent dangerous blockages.  A doctor may recommend getting a cholesterol profile test as part of a regular health screening for people of a certain age.  Individuals with certain risk factors may also be suggested to get their cholesterol checked more frequently.

How to Treat High Cholesterol?

It is essential for females and males to maintain healthy cholesterol levels. Here are some ways to treat high cholesterol:

Dietary Changes

  • Reduce Saturated Fats, Trans Fats, and Dietary Cholesterol – These raise LDL (bad) cholesterol. It is best to limit red meat, whole milk, fried foods, baked goods, etc., on a daily basis.
  • Consume Dietary Fibre – Soluble fibre can reduce LDL. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts and seeds, are good sources of fibre.
  • Add Foods Rich in Omega-3 Fatty Acids – Found in fish, walnuts, chia seeds, and flax seeds. Omega-3 fatty acids are known to help lower triglycerides.

Lifestyle Changes

Increase Physical Activity – Regular exercise can boost HDL (good) cholesterol and help manage weight.

  • Quit Smoking – As smoking tobacco decreases HDL, it is suggested to quit as soon as possible.
  • Limit Alcohol Consumption – Moderate drinking may raise HDL but excess amounts contribute to empty calories as well as high HDL levels. Thus, individuals who consume alcoholic beverages regularly should limit their intake.

Medications

  • Statins – These are the most commonly prescribed cholesterol-lowering medications. They work by reducing cholesterol production in the liver.
  • Additional Drugs – Some medications may be prescribed alongside statins to lower LDL or target other lipids.

Regular testing helps monitor progress among individuals with pre-existing heart-related issues. To know the normal cholesterol levels for women and men, it is best to consult an experienced medical practitioner.

People with low HDL cholesterol levels should consult a specialist about lifestyle modifications to increase their HDL. It is important to monitor cholesterol levels by getting regular cholesterol panel blood tests as recommended by your healthcare provider. At Max Lab, one can book a cholesterol test online at an affordable price.

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