While people are aware that they should get their cholesterol checked, most do not know much about how to interpret the results. Before you fill out this profile, there are certain terms related to your blood chemistry that you should understand. When your doctor does a full lipid profile, he or she is evaluating five basic numbers.
1. High-density lipoprotein (HDL) is the type of cholesterol that we think of as good or protective. If small amounts of plaque (LDL or bad cholesterol) have been laid down in your blood vessels and you have enough HDL, you will be able to dissolve this plaque and use it as an energy source.
2. Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) is the bad type of cholesterol that collects in your blood vessels as plaque and clogs them if you have too much floating around in your bloodstream or if you don't have sufficient HDL to dissolve it. According to the new cholesterol standards for both genders recently published by the Journal of the American Medical Association:
• 130-159 mg/dl is borderline high.
3. Triglycerides are the fats that appear in the blood immediately after a meal or snack. Normally, they are stripped of their fatty acids when they pass through various types of tissue, especially adipose (beneath the skin) fat and skeletal muscle. When this happens, they are converted into stored energy that is gradually released and metabolized between meals according to the metabolic needs of your body. Almost everyone loves sugars and other kinds of carbohydrates. Unfortunately, if you are insulin sensitive and eat more carbohydrates than you require daily, your triglyceride level will elevate. When this happens, your disease risk for hypoglycemia and type 2 diabetes can increase and you will become more susceptible to coronary disease.
• A normal triglyceride level is 150 or below.
4. Your total cholesterol is found by adding your HDL plus your LDL plus your triglycerides divided by 5. Ideally, your total cholesterol should be 100 plus your age.
• A total cholesterol less than 200 mg/dl is desirable.
• 200-239 mg/dl is borderline high.
• 240 mg/dl or greater is considered high.
5. Another important number in your full lipid profile is the ratio between your total cholesterol and your HDL.
• The average athlete has a 2.1:1 to 2.8:1 ratio.
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