Measuring blood fats is an important tool in determining your risk of cardiovascular disease. A lipid panel is a series of tests used to determine the amount of fat in your blood. There are four major fat components that will be listed on your lipid panel:
Total Cholesterol LevelsOne of the readings you will see from your laboratory results is a number for "total cholesterol." This will tell you the total number of all of the fats you have in your blood. According to the National Cholesterol Education Program:
- A desirable level is less than 200 mg/dL (5.17 mmol/L)
- Levels between 200 mg/dL and 239 mg/dL (5.17–6.18 mmol/L) are considered borderline for high cholesterol.
- Levels at or above 240 mg/dL (6.21 mmol/L ) are considered high total cholesterol levels. This may put you at an increased risk for heart disease.
High Density LipoproteinsHigh density lipoproteins, or HDL, are considered to be the "good cholesterol", because HDL’s role in the body is to take cholesterol to the liver for degredation or processing, as opposed to allowing the cholesterol to hang around in the blood. According to the National Cholesterol Education Program:
- Any HDL level above more than 60 mg/dL (1.56 mmol/L) is considered high. A high HDL level is considered very healthy, since it has a protective role in guarding against heart disease.
- An acceptable HDL range is between 40- 60 mg/dL (1.04–1.56 mmol/L).
- An undesirable level of HDL is any level below 40 mg/dL (1.04 mmol/L). In this case, low HDL levels may help to contribute to heart disease.
Triglyceride LevelsElevated levels of triglycerides are also a risk factor for heart disease. According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute:
- Triglyceride levels should be below 150 mg/dL (1.69 mmol/L).
- Levels between 150 mg/dL (1.69 mmol/L ) and 199 mg/dL (2.25 mmol/L) are considered borderline high.
- Levels between 200-499 mg/dL (2.26-5.63 mmol/L) are considered high.
- Levels above 500 mg/dL (5.64 mmol/L) or considered extremely high.
Low Density LipoproteinsLow density lipoproteins, also known as LDLs, are considered to be the "bad cholesterol". This type of lipoprotein circulates from the liver to other organs and tissues in the body, carrying cholesterol where it is needed. This type of cholesterol tends to linger and has been connected with various types of heart disease, including atherosclerosis, heart attack, stroke, and coronary heart disease. The current guidelines for LDL levels are:
- LDL levels less than 100 mg/dL ( 2.6 mmol/L) are considered optimal.
- LDL levels between 100 – 129 mg/dL (2.6–3.34 mmol/L) are considered near or above optimal.
- LDL levels between 130 – 159 mg/dL (3.36–4.13 mmol/L) are considered borderline high.
- LDL levels between 160 – 189 mg/dL (4.14 - 4.90 mmol/L) are considered high.
- LDL levels at or above 190 mg/dL (4.91 mmol/L) is considered very high.
- The highest risk patient group includes individuals who already have established cardiovascular disease (i.e. already had a heart attack or stroke), in addition to other conditions, such as metabolic syndrome, previous heart attack, high blood pressure, or smoking.
This group of patients should have goal of having an LDL less than 70 mg/dL (1.81 mmol/L).
- Individuals who have coronary artery disease(CAD) or other vascular disease (like diabetes, carotid artery disease, peripheral artery disease, or a previous abdominal aortic aneurysm) are considered at high risk. The LDL goal in these individuals is less than 100 mg/dL (2.6 mmol/L), although some health care providers may want this number below 70 mg/dL.
- Individuals with two or more risk factors are considered at moderate risk of getting heart disease. Their LDL goal is less than 130 mg/dL (3.36 mmol/L).
- Individuals with one or no risk factors are at low risk for getting heart disease. Their LDL goal is less than 160 mg/dL (4.14 mmol/L).
Third Report of the National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP) Expert Panel on Detection, Evaluation, and Treatment of High Blood Cholesterol in Adults (PDF)
Heart Protection Study Collaborative Group. MRC/BHF heart protection study of cholesterol lowering with simvastatin in 20,536 high-risk individuals: a randomized placebo-controlled trial. Lancet 2002;360:7-22.