Cholesterol and Triglycerides: First, it helps to understand exactly what blood lipids are. Both cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood are called lipids. When blood lipid levels are high, this is called dyslipidemia.
Cholesterol: Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance that is found in the tissue of humans and other animals. It plays important roles in the body. Our livers produce all the cholesterol that we need for these important functions. We also get cholesterol from the animal foods we eat such as meats, poultry, eggs, and dairy products. High blood cholesterol levels can contribute to atherosclerosis, or clogging of the arteries.
Triglycerides: Triglycerides, or blood fats, are the fats that circulate through the bloodstream along with cholesterol. Your body gets triglycerides from food (especially meats and plant oils) and also makes triglycerides on its own. As with cholesterol, you need just the right amount of triglycerides. High triglyceride levels increase your risk of heart and blood vessel disease.
Cholesterol and triglycerides are both lipids, but have very different shapes. Cholesterol is made up of connected rings of carbon atoms and also is called a “sterol”. Triglycerides are chains of carbons called “fatty acids”, attached at one end to a carbon backbone. We all know that oil doesn’t mix with water! Our blood lipids are just like oil. In order to circulate in the watery blood, these lipids (cholesterol and triglycerides) are packaged along with proteins. These packages are called lipoproteins.
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Lipids and Cholesterol
What are blood lipids?
- Lipids are fat-like substances found in your blood and body tissues.
- Your body needs small amounts of lipids to work normally.
How are my blood lipids measured?
- A blood test called a complete lipid profile is done.
- It is recommended that this test be done after an overnight fast.
What happens if my lipids are too high?
An excess amount of blood lipids can cause fat deposits in your artery walls, increasing your risk for heart disease.
Are there different kinds of lipids?
Cholesterol is the main lipid. It is made up of different parts such as:
- LDL cholesterol, or “bad” cholesterol, is the main lipid that causes damaging buildup and blockage in your arteries.
- HDL cholesterol is actually a “good” type of cholesterol that helps to prevent cholesterol from building up in your arteries.
- Triglyceride is another lipid that may increase your risk for heart disease.
What are healthy lipid levels?
- Your total cholesterol should be less than 200.
- Your HDL cholesterol should be 40 or higher.
- Your LDL cholesterol should be less than 100. Ask your doctor.
- Your triglyceride level should be less than 150.
If my lipids are not at the right levels, what can be done to improve them?
- Your doctor may recommend that you follow a diet low in saturated fats and cholesterol.
- You may also need to increase your activity level.
- In some cases, you may also need to take a medication to help lower your lipid levels.