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Everything you wanted to know about — cholesterol, lipid profile, VLDL, HDL and triglycerides

Now you can read your cholesterol and lipid profile report without much hassle

Written by Dr Varuna Mallya |Updated : August 25, 2015 7:41 PM IST

A simple blood test is all you need to check for high cholesterol, triglyceride, VLDL and HDL levels and your lipid range. And, the procedure is quite simple all you need to do is go to a pathology lab where some blood from your arm will be drawn for testing. But it's understanding those reports that becomes difficult. What with all those complex words and acronyms like cholesterol, LDL, HDL, triglycerides and lipid profile. But now you can decipher your report yourself. Here's is everything you need to know about the test and what its results mean.

What is cholesterol?

Just like there is fat in your body, cholesterol is also a type of fat or lipid that is produced in the liver and is necessary for the proper functioning of the body. Here are 10 cholesterol lowering foods that you should eat.

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If our body produces it, why is cholesterol harmful?

When cholesterol levels are in the normal range, in a healthy body, the blood flows freely through the veins and arteries. When the cholesterol levels are high, it starts forming clots (plaques) in the blood vessels causing hypertension (high BP), angina (chest pain), heart attacks, strokes and peripheral vascular diseases. Here are some expert tips to prevent heart diseases before it get worse.

What do the terms LDL, HDL and VLDL that figure in my lipid profile reports mean?

Since cholesterol is a fat that is insoluble in blood, it needs something to carry it or transport it in our body. LDL, HDL, VLDL are small molecules called lipoproteins that help with the same. Here are six foods that can help you to increase your HDL cholesterol levels.

I ve heard there is good and bad cholesterol. What are they?

It's a simple distinction, here's what they are:

Good cholesterol is good because they help get rid of excess cholesterol by transporting them from the blood vessels to the liver for excretion. HDL (High Density Lipoprotein) is a good cholesterol.

Bad cholesterol is bad because it adds cholesterol to your blood by transporting it from the liver. Apart from that they also lead to the formation of plaque which puts you at risk of suffering from high BP, chest pain, heart problems etc. Formed from VLDL (Very Low Density Lipoprotein), it is this compound that helps mobilise cholesterol from the liver depositing it in your blood vessels.

What are triglycerides?

Triglycerides are another type of fat or lipid that combine with cholesterol to form a compound called plasma lipids, that then get deposited in your blood vessels. Your body stores excess fat (that you get from food) in the form of triglycerides so that during times when you do not eat (like between meals) it can use these fat stores as a form of energy. Know, how to reduce your triglyceride levels naturally.

How do I know I have excess cholesterol and lipoproteins?

A simple investigation called the lipid profile done by drawing your blood is the answer (after an overnight fasting and having a diet low in fat for three days) is recommended. This test measures the triglyceride levels, total cholesterol, LDL, VLDL and HDL levels.

The normal ranges are as given below:

DesirableBorderlineHigh risk
Cholesterol200-239 mg/dl240 mg/dl
Triglycerides150-199 mg/dl200-499 mg/dl
HDL Cholesterol60 mg/dl35-45 mg/dl
LDL Cholesterol60-130 mg/dl130-159 mg/dl160-189 mg/dl
Cholesterol/HDL ratio4.05.06.0

If your values are slightly above or borderline , you need to be careful but there s no cause for alarm. A slightly elevated cholesterol level can sometimes be due to genetic predisposition and while you can't do much about your genes, you can modify our lifestyle to help lower your cholesterol levels. A good way to do that is to alter your diet, exercise regularly and keep you weight in check. Here is how you can keep your cholesterol levels in check.

What foods can help me control my cholesterol levels and maintain heart health?

Just a few simple tweaks to your daily diet can help you get your cholesterol levels under control:

1. Olive oil: Switch to olive oil for cooking. Research has shown that the Mediterranean people consume olive oil and have very low incidence of cardiovascular diseases and stroke. Olive oil contains a mix of various anti-oxidants which lower your bad cholesterol (LDL). Use it for your tadka or add it as a dressing to salads. Extra virgin olive oils are even more beneficial as they are less-processed and retain more anti-oxidants than the other varieties. Read more about skin and hair benefits of olive oil.

2. Nuts: Walnuts and almonds are rich in omega three fatty acids and PUFA (poly unsaturated fatty acids) which help reduce LDL cholesterol and keep the blood vessels healthy. A handful of these nuts (unsalted, unfried) should help. Here are a bunch of articles on various health benefits of different nuts.

3. Oats: Being high in soluble fibre, oats reduce the absorption of cholesterol (Total & LDL) in your blood. Eating 1 cups of cooked oats with milk and bananas or apples gives you your daily requirement of soluble fibre. Here more health benefits of oats.

4. Fish: High in omega 3 fatty acids, it helps increase the levels of the good (or HDL) cholesterol.

It is recommended that you have atleast two servings of Salmon (rawas fish), herring (bhing) or mackerel (bangda) per week. For restricting calories, they are best eaten grilled, shallow fried with very little oil or baked. Read more health benefits of salmon fish.

If you do not eat fish or do not have access to good fish, add ground flax seeds (alsi), pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds (til), soyabean oil, canola oil to your diet. Omega 3 fatty acid supplements are also available.

5. Garlic: Though the cholesterol lowering effects of garlic has been debated in recent times, it has been shown that allicin in the garlic does help. Read more about foods that can help in reducing cholesterol.

Apart from these foods there are other foods that can help control the level of bad cholesterol in your body, here are a few.

What foods should you avoid?

The best way to keep your cholesterol levels down is to avoid processed foods like biscuits, cookies, cakes and fried foods. Apart from that,red meat and egg yolk can also make matters worse, so giving them a miss will definitely help control your bad cholesterol levels.

How much exercise should I do in order to keep my cholesterol levels in check?

Most people will tell you that simply walking everyday will help regularise your cholesterol levels, but there can be nothing farther from the truth. The intensity and the amount of time spent exercising is very important to have significant beneficial effects.

If you have been a sedentary person all your life, you can start with a 45 minute walk but should soon increase the intensity by adding jogging and other forms of cardio exercises to your routine. If exercising regularly is not something you can do try to make changes in your everyday routine to incorporate exercise. Small changes like walking down the road as you shop instead of taking your car, a taxi or auto, climbing stairs instead of taking the elevator, playing some sport or even doing your household cleaning yourself can help.

Here is are expert tips on keeping your cholesterol levels in check.

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