Comprehensive Information on Cholesterol Tests, Types of Cholesterol and Interpreting the Results of the Test

Submitted on March 27, 2012

A cholesterol test helps to identify the amount of cholesterol in the body. It is a simple blood test, and the blood sample is typically collected from a vein in the arm.

A cholesterol test is a screening test that can help to estimate the risk of developing a future heart disease. It is important to understand that the body requires some amount of cholesterol for its regular functioning.

Cholesterol in the body is responsible for the production of bile acids, Vitamin D, and many other hormones. Too much of cholesterol, however, can lead to heart disease.

Cholesterol is basically a fatty, wax like substance that is carried by the blood stream. When the cholesterol levels are high, the excess cholesterol gets deposited in the arteries of the heart, leading to a blockage. If left untreated, it can lead to heart failure.

There are three types of cholesterol that are found in the body: the good cholesterol also known as HDL cholesterol, the bad cholesterol known as LDL cholesterol, and VLDL cholesterol. The total cholesterol level when measured is a combination of all of the above.

The LDL or low-density lipoprotein cholesterol is called the bad cholesterol since it is responsible for creating blockages in the heart. The HDL or high-density lipoprotein cholesterol is known as the good cholesterol as it helps to bring down the levels of the bad LDL cholesterol. The VLDL or very low-density lipoprotein cholesterol contains triglycerides, which are also considered to be bad, as they are a source of fat that can block the arteries.

Interpreting the results of a cholesterol test

The results of a cholesterol test typically contain values for total cholesterol, LDL and HDL cholesterol, and triglycerides.

Cholesterol values are normally measured on a scaled of mg/Dl.

The values of total cholesterol are interpreted as follows:

  • 200 mg/Dl is considered to be ideal.
  • 200 mg/Dl to 239 mg/Dl is considered to be borderline high.
  • All levels above 240 mg/Dl are considered to as high cholesterol.

A high total cholesterol level can be an indication of biliary cirrhosis, familial hyperlipidimeas, diet that is very high in fat, hypothyroidism, nephritic syndrome, and diabetes.

A lower than ideal total cholesterol can be an indication of hyperthyroidism, liver disease, malabsorption, malnutrition, pernicious anemia, and sepsis. The total cholesterol level should not be used to estimate the risk of a potential heart disease. Understanding the values of LDL and HDL can help in estimating the risk of developing a heart disease.

The values of HDL cholesterol are interpreted as follows:

  • 60 mg/Dl is considered to be very good for the heart.
  • 40 – 60 mg/Dl is acceptable.
  • HDL below 40 mg/Dl is considered low. A low HDL value increases the risk of heart disease.

The higher the HDL value, the better it is.

The values of LDL cholesterol are interpreted as follows:

  • Values less than 100 mg/DL is considered normal.
  • 100 – 129 mg/Dl is considered above optimal.
  • 130 – 159 mg/DL is considered borderline high.
  • 160 – 189 mg/Dl is considered high.
  • 190 mg/DL and above is considered very high.

Any LDL value above normal increases the risk of heart disease.

A low HDL value along with a high LDL value indicates a very high risk of heart diseases. It is also important to know that these values can vary depending on the current medical status of the individual. It is a good practice to check the cholesterol levels once every five years (particularly LDL cholesterol test and VLDL cholesterol test) to ensure that there are no potential risks to the heart.