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Why Are Early Cholesterol Tests Important?

Why Are Early Cholesterol Tests Important?

Max Lab

Mar 08, 2022

With the stress and pressures related to the modern-day lifestyle, focusing on heart health has become more important than ever, and the cholesterol levels of the body are an important component of the same. Keeping a check on the cholesterol levels in the body is vital for good health as a higher-than-normal blood cholesterol level does not show any symptoms but can lead to a number of serious issues like a heart stroke, cardiovascular conditions, etc.

What is Cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance that is made by the body for performing important tasks like producing hormones or digesting the fat in your food. As the body produces all the cholesterol you require, it is advised to limit the intake of dietary cholesterol. Cholesterol can be categorised into two types, based on the protein that carries them in the blood:

  • Low-Density Lipoprotein (LDL) or Bad Cholesterol: This type accounts for a majority of the cholesterol found in the body.
  • High-Density Lipoprotein (HDL) or Good Cholesterol: Absorbs excess cholesterol in the body and carries it to the liver to be flushed out.

While the body requires cholesterol for functioning properly, excessive levels of bad cholesterol can lead to plaque accumulation on the blood vessel walls, blocking blood flow, and putting you at risk for heart disease and strokes. The measurement of cholesterol levels in the body can help avoid such conditions.

What is a Cholesterol Test?

The measurement of cholesterol levels in the body is done through a blood test. There are basically two types of tests that check cholesterol levels – the HDL test and the lipid profile.

What is an HDL Test?

This test is for the measurement of HDL cholesterol specifically and may be ordered as a follow-up test if a cholesterol screening comes back with high results. Regular HDL tests may also be recommended for monitoring cholesterol levels of people who are at high risk for cardiovascular issues.

What is a Lipid Profile?

A lipid profile is a more comprehensive cholesterol blood test that checks the levels of LDL, the “bad” cholesterol; HDL, the “good” cholesterol; triglycerides, a type of fat used by the body for energy; and total cholesterol, which is calculated based on the levels of HDL, LDL, and triglycerides.

Individuals should consult with their doctor to better understand their risk factors, how to test their cholesterol levels, which test they should get performed, and how regularly they should check their cholesterol levels.

The Importance of Cholesterol Monitoring

The presence of too much cholesterol in the body can lead to a build-up of the fatty substance on the walls of the blood vessels. As the vessels start narrowing due to the fatty substance, they restrict blood flow to and from the heart, which leads to several serious health conditions, if not kept under check. Fasting before a cholesterol test may be recommended by the doctor in some cases.

  • Monitoring cholesterol levels is an important part of maintaining your overall health. Even though high cholesterol does not have symptoms of its own, it increases the risk of blood clots, heart attacks, stroke, angina, coronary heart disease, etc.
  • Regular cholesterol monitoring allows people to keep an eye on their cholesterol levels. Early detection of rising levels allows people to make lifestyle changes in time, which can help keep cholesterol levels in check and help one avoid a number of serious issues.
  • Regular cholesterol checks are also ordered for people who are at high risk for heart diseases. Risk factors for the same include obesity, family history, inactive lifestyle, diabetes, smoking, unhealthy diet, etc.
  • People with high levels of LDL or triglycerides also require regular cholesterol monitoring to check the efficacy of their treatment.

With the option to check cholesterol at home with home sample pickups, it has become easier than ever to monitor the levels of cholesterol in the body.

Who Should Get a Cholesterol Test Done?

Healthy individuals should ideally get their cholesterol checked around the age of 20 and repeat it every 5 years or so. After the age of 40, it is recommended that the cholesterol test should be performed every year.

A doctor may order a patient to get cholesterol tests performed more frequently if they are at high risk for cardiovascular issues or high cholesterol levels.

Risk Factors for High Cholesterol:

  • Family history of cholesterol or heart diseases or pre-existing heart condition
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Obesity or being overweight
  • Unhealthy diet
  • Regular smoking or alcohol intake
  • Diabetes, PCOS, underactive thyroid, kidney disease, etc.

Normal Level of Blood Cholesterol

  • The normal level of total blood cholesterol is 200 mg/dL. On the other hand, 200-239 mg/dL is considered to be borderline, while 240 mg/dL or more is considered to be high.
  • The LDL levels should be below 70 mg/dL for people with diabetes and heart diseases and below 100 mg/dL for people with heart issues. 100-129 mg/dL is normal for healthy individuals but high for people with heart diseases. LDL levels of 130-159 mg/dL are borderline for people not suffering from heart diseases, and anything over that is considered to be high.
  • HDL levels should ideally be above 60 mg/dL, but anything below 50 mg/dL in women and 40 mg/dL in men is indicative of an increased risk of heart issues and conditions.
  • The optimum level of triglycerides is 150 mg/dL and anything above 200 mg/dL is considered to be high.

Fasting before the cholesterol test is not always required and is based on your health condition.

Preventing High Cholesterol

Regardless of their age, people can take several steps to ensure a healthy lifestyle and maintain their cholesterol levels. These include:

  • Having a healthy diet: Avoid or limit food with saturated food, trans fats, and added sugars and include more high-fibre foods in the diet.
  • Maintain Weight: What a healthy weight means for a person can be calculated through their body-mass index. It is best to discuss the same with a doctor and come up with a suitable fitness plan.
  • Ensure Regular Physical Activity: Physical activities help maintain a healthy weight, lower cholesterol and manage blood pressure.
  • Quit Smoking and Limit Your Alcohol Intake

In case a person has high cholesterol levels, they can take steps to manage the condition:

  1. Taking medication, if prescribed, on time is extremely important.
  2. Adopting a healthy lifestyle by changing your diet, increasing daily physical activity, etc. can help lower cholesterol levels.
  3. Monitoring cholesterol levels can help check whether the treatment plan is working.

Cholesterol levels can be kept in the desirable range through appropriate lifestyle changes; the onus is on you to manage it well.

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