Most of us in our forties and fifties have at one time or another gone through lipid profile testing ordered by our physician.
This could have been recommended to us either due to certain medications we were prescribed for a few years to treat conditions such as hypertension, diabetes, tobacco abuse, etc.
It may have been because we were seeking help with weight issues, or because the doctor wanted to assess our risk of developing coronary heart diseases later in life.
So what does the lipid profile testing do? Quite simply, it is a group of tests that determines total cholesterol, high density ipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C), low density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) and triglycerides circulating in our blood.
Together, they indicate our risk of getting a heart attack or a stroke due to blockages or hardening of the artery. (1)
Until recently, we were told by doctors that HDL-C was "good cholesterol" and having a higher count (a reading of 60 mg/dL and above) was something that was desirable and would protect our heart from diseases.
HDL-C actually is the cholesterol contained in the HDL particles (HDL-P).
HDL-P is believed to have the ability to remove cholesterol from within arteries and transport it back to the liver for excretion or re-utilization. Conversely having a higher LDL and/or triglyceride count meant we were more likely to have issues of the heart in the future (2).
However, recent studies that tried to raise HDL–C in some people to prevent future heart incidences failed to deliver results. This perplexed the scientific community and threw up some unanswered questions.
New research conducted at Brigham and Women's Hospital, the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health and other institutions, have now discovered that measuring HDL particles (HDL-P) and not HDL cholesterol (HDL-C) is a more relevant and precise indicator of coronary heart disease and offers stronger protection than HDL-C.
Tests such as the nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR), the vertical auto profile and gel electrophoresis can measure the HDL-P count accurately. (3)