The Lipid Panel: (Liver Series part 3 of 3)

Many people would put this with cardiac labs since this is widely used to predict who may have some future heart or vessel disease.  I also included the lipid panel here because your liver does so much work in making and clearing the elements that make up these set of tests and can injure the liver as well.

Triglycerides (TG) are a major source of energy for the body and makes up the bulk of the lipids in the blood.  When we eat extra calories are converted to TGs, which will be stored in fat cells unit the body needs the extra energy.  TGs circulate with help of carrier proteins known as lipoproteins.  In normal amounts TGs are very important for good health.  Elevated TG levels are due to too many sugary and refined carbohydrate foods and puts us at risk for heart disease, diabetes, insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome and liver disease.

Target Range:  50 to 100 mg/dL

Note:  A triglyceride level of 135 may be ‘normal’, but is not ideal.  While it is possible to have a TG level that is too low, high TG levels are much more common in the American population. A 2007 study showed the risk of heart disease and stoke for young people with elevated TG levels was four times that of young people with the lowest levels of TGs.

Total Cholesterol is a number on many lab reports but the greatest interest in the different types of cholesterol to determine lifetime risk for heart and brain diseases.   If the cholesterol is too low (rare event outside of chronically ill individuals) that can be disruptive to many metabolic functions because cholesterol is the basic building block of certain key hormones including estrogen, testosterone, progesterone, DHEA and cortisol.  Cholesterol that is too low for a long period of time increases the risk of brain hemorrhages because blood with very low cholesterol content does not clot easily.  Low Cholesterol levels have also been connected to disorders like anxiety and depression.

Target lowest level for hormone production: 140 mg/dL

Target range:  140 to 200 mg/dL

Low-Density Lipoprotein (LDL) Cholesterol had been labeled the ‘bad’ cholesterol but according to the Mayo Clinic, low levels of LDL can rusult in increased risk of caner, depression and anxiety.   In pregnant women, low LDL cholesterol can also result in preterm birth and low birth weight. So LDL is not ‘bad’ just needs to be monitored and kept below 100 mg/dL, optimally below 80 mg/dL.

Target:  below 80 mg/dL

High-Density Lipoprotein (HDL) Cholesterol:  It is good to have an elevated level of HDL because it carries ‘bad’ cholesterol to the liver, where it is then removed from your system.  Think of HDL as a cleaning crew that gets rid of cholesterol that could lead to clogging of the arteries.  Elevated levels of HDL can reduce the risk of coronary artery disease.

Target Ranges:  Greater than 60 mg/dL

But wait, there’s more…not all cholesterol molecules are created equal.  The size of the cholesterol molecules are also important.  This is termed the particle size.  There are advanced testing of the cholesterol molecules to find out if they are working in your favor.  If there is a significant family history of heart disease or other risks such as diabetes, obesity and smoking this may be a set of tests your physician may request on your behalf.

The Verticle Auto Profile (VAP) test and the Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) lipid profile are next level tests that can be used to evaluate the cholesterol subtypes in greater detail.  These tests measure up to 15 different components of your cholesterol.  This can tell you how well your ‘cleaning crew’ is working for you.

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