What cholesterol is and what cholesterol blood tests show
24
August

By Adem Lewis / in , , , , , , , , , , , , , , /


This animation explains what cholesterol is
and what a blood test for cholesterol shows. Click the navigation arrows below the animation
screen to play, pause, rewind or fast-forward the animation. This animation contains sound.
Cholesterol is a type of fat (also known as lipid) that’s found in your body and is essential
for keeping you healthy. However, a high cholesterol level is associated
with coronary artery disease and stroke. Cholesterol passes through the body in the
blood. It can’t travel through the bloodstream on
its own so it attaches to protein. The protein and cholesterol together is called
a lipoprotein. There are two main types, each with a different
amount of protein in relation to the cholesterol. Some of your cholesterol is carried as high
density lipoprotein (or HDL), which is mostly made up of protein with a small amount of
cholesterol. Most of your cholesterol is carried as low
density lipoprotein (or LDL). LDL is made up of mostly cholesterol and a
small amount of protein. Another type of fat is called triglyceride.
You get this type of fat from your diet. Fats are stored as triglyceride in your body.
Triglycerides are carried in the blood as very low density lipoproteins (VLDLs).
Having plenty of HDL, and not much LDL and VLDL, is good for your health.
It keeps your blood vessels and your heart healthy.
Having too much LDL and VLDL in your blood is bad for your blood vessels and your heart.
It can cause fatty deposits to build up in your blood vessels.
Cholesterol levels are measured by a blood test.
The blood will be taken with a needle and syringe.
You will be asked not to eat for 12 hours before the test because having food will affect
the test results. The results of your blood test will show the
amounts of the different types of cholesterol and triglyceride in your blood.
In the UK, the amount of cholesterol in your blood is measured in millimoles per litre
(mmol/l). It’s healthy to have a total cholesterol of
5 mmol/l or lower. Your total cholesterol (or TC) means the total
amount of your LDL, HDL and VLDL. Your results will show the amount of LDL cholesterol
in your blood. It’s healthy to have an LDL of 3mm/l or lower.
Your results will also give the ratio of your HDL to your total cholesterol (your HDL/Total
Percentage). Over 25 percent (%) is generally better because
that means you have plenty of HDL in relation to your overall total cholesterol.
This does though depend on the total amount of cholesterol in your blood, so it can sometimes
be lower and not be unhealthy. These results help you and your doctor look
at whether you need to make diet and lifestyle changes to reduce your risk of heart disease.
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