Often a hospital or clinic will offer an onsite cholesterol test at a health fair or health-themed event. You receive a number calculated from a drop of your blood and now you know what your cholesterol level is, right?
Unfortunately, the answer is no. While a blood drop test might identify an extremely high cholesterol level that would alert you to the need to see your doctor immediately, it’s not a thorough enough test to determine whether or not your cholesterol is in the optimal range. While a total cholesterol level of less than 200 mg/dL (milligrams per deciliter) is labeled “desirable,” it doesn’t tell the whole story. And when it comes to cholesterol, the more you know, the better.
A Fasting Blood Draw
A more accurate test of your cholesterol levels can be obtained through a fasting blood draw. This will require that you ingest nothing except water nine to 12 hours before your blood draw.
Basic Cholesterol Testing: 3 Numbers to Watch
There are three individual numbers to be aware of and different things can both positively and negatively affect each. What is good and what is bad and how cholesterol levels can be adjusted can be confusing. Once your doctor receives the results, be sure to schedule an office visit in order to discuss them.
- LDL cholesterol (low-density lipoprotein) is considered your “bad” cholesterol and an optimal LDL level is 100 mg/dL or less. LDL can attach to the walls of blood vessels and harden, leading to blockages (called atherosclerosis). The higher your LDL number is, the higher your risk for a heart attack due to a blood clot in a blocked artery.
- HDL cholesterol (high-density lipoprotein) is your “good” cholesterol. An HDL level of 60 mg/dL is considered optimum. HDL cholesterol is often referred to as the trash crew of the blood stream. It gathers up LDL cholesterol and delivers it to the liver where it can be reprocessed. HDL also scrubs away atherosclerosis.
- Triglycerides are the third number related to your cholesterol that you should know. An optimal triglyceride level is less than 150 mg/dL. Triglycerides are the main form of fat in your body and even though the human body needs some fat to function well, higher triglyceride levels have been linked to a higher risk of heart disease.
Advanced Cholesterol Testing
This basic group of tests to determine your risk for cardiovascular and related diseases is a good start, but they should always be combined with advanced testing to unveil a more accurate picture of total health. Dr. Raman offers advanced cholesterol testing to all of our patients. Molecular lipid particles are tested to measure true cellular inflammation. Knowing these values enables us to take an aggressive approach to prevention before plaque even begins to form.
- Lipoprotein Particles
Lipoprotein particle size/number and Apolipoprotein concentrations reveal levels of good and bad cholesterol particles, which provide a far better predictor of risk than traditional lipid profiles alone.
Inflammatory processes are independent predictors of risk. Testing reveals the level of inflammation of blood vessels that may lead to plaque rupture, ultimately resulting in a heart attack or stroke.
- Heart Function
Advanced tests detect strain or other damage to the heart muscle, which can lead to more appropriate treatment for preventing heart attacks.
Genetic markers predict risk for heart attacks and strokes, plus sensitivity to commonly prescribed medications.
Metabolic markers can lead to early detection of diabetes and cardiovascular disease, which may reduce or eliminate a patient’s need for insulin.
- HD-Omega-3 Index
A Fatty Acid Profile is a potent indicator of the nutrients in a patient’s diet that can improve cardiovascular health.
Talk to Your Doctor About Your Cholesterol Levels
Cholesterol levels can be a frustrating combination to manage, so a good relationship with your doctor is essential. Once you have baseline numbers to discuss, your doctor can help you understand what you’re doing right and what you can do to improve, relative to your cholesterol levels. Problematic cholesterol levels can be positively affected by lifestyle changes, like improving nutrition, losing weight and increasing exercise. But since genetics can play a role in cholesterol levels, a strong partnership with your doctor is the best start to assessing and addressing any health risks. A great website with some more tools can be found by clicking here.
Dr. Raman’s Concierge Medical Practice embraces a holistic approach to health care. We don’t want to just treat patients after they become ill; we want to help our patients stay well and maintain good health from the inside out.
If you are concerned about your cholesterol levels, contact Dr. Raman to learn more about our practice and how you can partner with us for better health.