Since February is American Heart Month, it is an excellent time to talk about blood tests related to heart health.
It is important not to look at only one test but instead to look at what the combination of tests tell you about your health and risk of heart disease.
This will be a two-part article. In this first blog I will talk about the more traditional tests, the ones that tend to be covered by insurance companies. In the next article I will talk about some newer tests that are now being used specifically for heart disease.
A lipid panel is at group of tests that give information about our cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Here are the tests you would find in a lipid panel.
Total cholesterol levels are the sum of cholesterol content in your blood.
Normal cholesterol should be below 200 mg/dL.
High cholesterol is above 200mg/dL.
Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol acts as a shuttle carrying cholesterol from the liver to the tissues. High levels of LDL can accumulate as fatty plaques and block the arteries.
LDL is often referred to as bad cholesterol.
Optimal LDL level are less than 130 mg/dL.
High LDL levels are above 130 mg/dL.
High-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol acts as a shuttle carrying cholesterol from the tissues and back the liver to dispose of it. This keeps the arteries open and flowing.
HDL is often referred to as good cholesterol.
Low levels are less than 60 mg/dL.
Normal levels are be 60 mg/dL .
High levels are above 60 mg/dL.
Triglycerides are another type of fat found in the blood. While triglycerides are created in the body they also come from foods you consume. When you consume more calories than your body needs it can cause your triglycerides to be high.
Normal levels are less than 150 mg/dL.
Borderline high levels are 150 - 199 mg/dL.
High levels are 200 - 499 mg/dL.
Very high levels are 500 mg/dL or above.
I also recommend an additional test added to the lipid panel which is a test of the total cholesterol/HDL level ratio. To find the ratio you divide the total cholesterol number by the HDL number.