High Cholesterol Tests & Diagnosis
Cholesterol is a fat-like waxy substance that is produced naturally in the liver and other bodily cells, and it is taken into the body by eating cholesterol-rich foods such as meat, eggs and dairy. Humans need a small amount of cholesterol for the brain, heart, skin cells and nerves to function, and for cells to digest fat and produce vitamin D and hormones. It is very important to have a sufficient amount of cholesterol in the body; the trouble is when there is too much. High cholesterol is a condition known as hypercholesterolemia.
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Cholesterol travels through the blood stream in order to reach its destinations, such as the brain, skin cells and heart. If there is an excessive amount of cholesterol flowing through the blood vessels, the excess cholesterol will need to leave and go someplace else. This is when the trouble starts.
There is no healthy place for the surplus cholesterol in the body. Anywhere it goes is dangerous. It will bind to the walls of arteries throughout the body, especially those of the heart (coronary arteries), legs and brain (carotid artery). Plaque made up of cholesterol’s low-density lipoprotein (LDL) builds up and narrows the arteries; the clogged arteries (atherosclerosis) result in slowed and ultimately stopped blood flow to organs, cells and muscles throughout the body.
The body relies upon the blood stream for its needed vitamins and oxygen. With less blood able to flow through the arteries, less nutrients and oxygen are supplied throughout the body. A reduction in blood supply to the organs, cells and muscles that rely upon it results in such lethal medical catastrophes as stroke, heart disease, heart attack, blood clots and muscle death. The higher a person’s cholesterol, the more of a risk he has of heart disease, stroke, angina, blood clots and muscle death.
Tests that measure levels of cholesterol are done via blood tests, since cholesterol is carried in the blood. The tests distinguish between the different forms of cholesterol, as one is dangerous and one is healthy; LDL (low density lipoprotein) is the “bad cholesterol” that deposits in arteries and raises the risk of heart disease, and HDL (high density lipoprotein) is the “good cholesterol” that helps to clear the body of LDL and lowers the risk of heart disease. The total Cholesterol is calculated as LDL plus HDL.
Another form of fat in the body that also contributes to heart disease is known as a triglyceride. Triglycerides are taken into account when measuring cholesterol because they have the same effect as LDL.
The following is a list of blood test results and their appropriate diagnoses:
Low density lipoprotein (LDL; “bad cholesterol”)
Ideal: lower than 100 mg/dL
Normal: 100-129 mg/dL
Almost High Risk: 130-159 mg/dL
High Risk: 160-189 mg/dL
Lethally High Risk: 190 mg/dL or higher
High density lipoprotein (HDL; “good cholesterol”)
Normal: higher than 60mg/dL
High Risk (of Heart Disease) for Men: lower than 40 mg/dL
High Risk (of Heart Disease) for Women: lower than 50 mg/dL
Total cholesterol (LDL + HDL)
Normal: lower than 200 mg/dL
Almost High Risk: 200-239 mg/dL
High Risk: 240 mg/dL or higher
Triglycerides (another form of harmful fat)
Normal: lower than 150 mg/dL
Almost High Risk: 150-199 mg/dL
High Risk: 200-499mg/dL
Lethally high Risk: higher than 500 mg/dL
To calculate your cholesterol ratio, or risk of heart disease:
Fast for 9-12 hours
- Go for a blood test
- Get the results of your LDL, HDL and triglycerides levels
- Perform the following mathematical equations:
- HDL + LDL (to determine your total cholesterol)
- Total cholesterol / HDL
Provide your result in ratio form to determine your risk of heart attack
(See Also: High Cholesterol Treatments)
High cholesterol is manageable. To help keep your cholesterol at healthy levels, begin eating healthy, losing weight if necessary, exercising and relaxing (to reduce stress). Speak with your health care provider about your cholesterol levels. Develop the best-suited course of action for you to lower your risk of heart disease and take control of your cholesterol.