When was the last time you had a full physical check-up with lipid profile done on you? If you’re under 35 you probably said ‘ummm… never!’.

Getting a full physical check-up is one of the more important doctor visits and it needs to happen every year. I don’t care if you’re doctor says you have to do it once in 3-5 yrs… you have to do it every year. Your lipid profile can change within a few months or weeks or even days in some extreme cases.  Keeping this in mind let’s have a good look at lipid profiles.

What are lipid profiles?

Lipid profiles are blood tests that are used to measure the total cholesterol and triglyceride (blood lipids)level of an individual. The test provides information on the amount of good and bad cholesterol that is present in the system. Abnormal blood lipids are a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease (CVD).

Cholesterol Group – HDL, LDL, Triglycerides & total cholesterol:

Cholesterol has gotten such a bad rap lately that people freak out when they hear the word! FYI… cholesterol is very very critical to the body. Cholesterol is a waxy lipid present on every cell membrane. It’s uses include insulating neurons, building and maintaining cellular walls, metabolizing fat soluble vitamins, producing bile, and helping the synthesis of many hormones (including the sex hormones). The body is capable of producing all the cholesterol it needs with or without dietary cholesterol intake and the liver ensures that the body always has  ~ 1000-1400 mg of cholesterol. This is 3-4 time the recommended daily amount of 300 mg. What is even more beautiful is that your body auto regulates the amount of cholesterol i.e. if you eat less cholesterol it will make more and if you eat more cholesterol it will make less! So next time you eat two egg yolks don’t run around crazy… be happy that you got all these goodies.

High Density Lipoprotein (HDL) a.k.a Good Cholesterol:

This is the good guy! This guy does the awesome job of transporting cholesterol from the arteries & other body tissues to the liver (which is then excreted as bile). A higher value of HDL is favorable and is arguably more important than having a low LDL. As a matter of fact experts consider a HDL value of over 60 as ‘immunity’ against CVD.

Low (Risk)                          : Less than 40 mg/dL for men and less than 50 mg/dL for women
Average (Normal)             : 40-50 mg/dL for men and between 50-59 mg/dl for women
High (Favorable)              : 60 mg/dL or higher for both men and women

Low Density Lipoprotein (LDL) a.k.a Bad Cholesterol:

If there’s a good guy… that’s because there is a bad guy! This poor fellow has the cursed job of transporting new cholesterol from the liver to the tissues in the body. Let me make it clear, as negative as LDL is made to sound, transporting cholesterol to the tissues is a super critical function.

Optimal (Favorable)        : Less than 100 mg/dL
Near/above optimal         : 100-129 mg/dL
Borderline high                 : 130-159 mg/dL
High                                     : 160-189 mg/dL
Very high (Risk                 : Greater than 190 mg/dL


This is the form in which most of our body fat exists. When you eat a large meal the calories that your body doesn’t need are converted into triglycerides right away and stored in fat cells (and will be used for energy later). If you regularly pig out i.e. eat more than what you need i.e if you’re fat… your triglyceride count will be high (hypertriglyceridemia). Triglycerides are a very important measure of heart health.

Desirable                            : Less than 150 mg/dL
Borderline high                : 150-199 mg/dL
High                                    : 200-499 mg/dL
Very high                           : Greater than 500 mg/dL

Total Cholesterol:

This is calculated as follows.

Total Cholesterol = HDL + LDL + (Triglycerides/5)

You don’t have to worry about this math because most labs will do the calculation for you.

The Ratios:

One way of assessing CVD risk from lipid profiles is by looking at the Total Cholesterol to HDL ratio (Total Cholesterol/HDL).

Risk/Gender             Men           Women

Very Low Risk               3.4               3.3

Low Risk                          4.0               3.8

Average Risk                  5.0               4.5

Moderate Risk               9.5               7.0

High Risk                       >23               >11

The other important ratio is the HDL to LDL (HDL/LDL). A value of 0.3-0.4 or high is desirable.

Lots of numbers in this blogpost… but these are numbers that will save your life and keep you healthy for long time to come! If you haven’t had a physical ever or in a year please get an appointment now… you will be happy you did.

Eat clean. Laugh much. Live well.


3 responses to “LDL, HDL, ABC, XYZ… WTF?!

  1. Mahesh July 1, 2010 at 7:36 am

    One post where I can always come back and check for the numbers! May be you should have also thrown a bit more emphasis on the critical factors that change the HDL/LDL ratio like diet, lifestyle and smoking, perhaps in a few sentences because most people might not be aware or though aware might be foolish 🙂 not to follow the adequate path.

    I also expected there would be reference to plaque buildup and clogging of arteries which is quite significant effect of LDL. May be with the picture of how an atherosclerotic artery looks after the plauqe formation will portray the severity of this!

    • RG July 1, 2010 at 8:45 am

      Thank you for the feedback Mahesh. The post was not meant to address how to control cholesterol or the causes or results. That is a separate post all by itself. This post was just to touch on ‘lipid profile’… what it is and what the LDL HDL Triglyceride terms mean. I will definitely write another post detailing the danger of high LDL etc.

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