Cholesterol: Function, Risk factors, and Tests for diagnosis

Cholesterol is being the serious problem because it forms a plaque and block or narrow arteries. This could further lead to heart disease or other serious health problems. To investigate and start treatment promptly, your health care provider will determine cholesterol test you must go through.

Analogous to this citation ‘cholesterol’ also essential substance in our body but excess of it may lead to many health complications. Therefore it is important to understand the required amount of it as well as the higher and lower limit we need to monitor.

It is a type of a fat (also called lipid) discovered in the blood naturally. It is produced by the liver and absorbed from some of the foods in our diet.


It is a wax or oil-like substance and does not mix with the blood (water-based) discovered in every body cell. There is an element called lipoproteins (made up of fats and proteins) used to carry around the body. This substance is important for survival, its functions are;

  • Essential to digest foods
  • To produce certain hormones
  • Assist in generating vitamin D
  • Take part in the structure of cell walls


There are three different types of cholesterol all contains triglycerides (1);

  • Low-density Lipoproteins (LDL)

Most cholesterol is LDL and considered as “bad cholesterol”. It builds plaque on the walls of the arteries and blockages may cause blood clots. Further, it may result in heart disease and health ailments.

Most favorable level is less than 100 mg/dL. Normal level is between 100-129 mg/dL. High level is 160-189 mg/dL and 190 mg/dL is very high.

  • High-density Lipoproteins (HDL)

It is considered as “good cholesterol” since it removes LDL from bloodstreams and carries it back to the liver, where it is processed and sent out of the body. The optimal level is 60 mg/dL or more and less than 40 mg/dL is too low.

  • Very-low-density Lipoproteins (VLDL)

This is also called a “bad cholesterol” since. It builds up plaque in arteries and increases the risk of heart attack and stroke. The favorable level is 30 mg/dL.

Recommended read – Excessive fat is dangerous to health.

Factors affecting cholesterol levels

Though it is present naturally in the body and produced by the liver, some sort can be monitor from other factors such as;

  • Diet: It plays a key role in every kind of health problems. Foods that are high in saturated fat, Trans fat and carbohydrates are known to raise the cholesterol levels.
  • Weight Management: Being overweight increases the cholesterol level and so the risk of getting the heart attack.
  • Regular physical activity: Everyday 30 minutes workout can help you to maintain weight and lowers LDL cholesterol levels while increasing HDL cholesterol levels.
  • Heredity: Though you have taken care of all factors responsible for risky cholesterol levels, heredity is sadly an unchangeable factor.
  • Race: There are particular races which are at higher risk of high cholesterol levels. For instance African and American.
  • Age: High cholesterol problem generally discovered with age. But younger people, including teens and children, are also at risk of high cholesterol.

If you are underlying any such cholesterol problem, mere lifestyle changes do not lower the cholesterol levels enough. You should see a doctor and start medications.

Why do you need to go through cholesterol test?

Cholesterol is a waxy substance present in every cell of your body. It is kind of a fact essential to keep your body in fine fettle. Your liver makes required cholesterol inside of the body. But some cholesterol you store from outside such as from packaged foods, meat, eggs, alcohol, etc.

If your body contains it in excess, it starts to build up “plaque” in the walls of arteries. Later, this plaque narrow or block the blood flow and eventually you turned out to be a heart patient.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t cause any sign or symptoms. Therefore, it is important to scrutinize cholesterol levels to estimate any risk of heart disease regularly. A complete cholesterol test is done to determine whether your cholesterol is high and estimate your risk of developing heart disease.

How does this test take place?

This test is also called a lipoprotein profile or lipoprotein analysis. You are not allowed to eat or drink (except water) for 9 to 12 hours and alcohol is strictly prohibited for 48 hours prior to your complete cholesterol test.

There are few things you must inform your doctor beforehand such as your family history of heart health, your own medical history if you are under any medications (particularly birth control pills) and if any other health problems.

A sample of your blood will examine different types of lipids or fats in your blood:

  • Total cholesterol
  • LDL (Low-density Lipoprotein)
  • HDL (High-density Lipoprotein)
  • Triglycerides
  • VLDL (Very low-density Lipoprotein)

Though all above are prominent, first four are common. VLDL measurement is not easy, therefore it is most of the time estimated based on the triglycerides measurement.

What does it diagnose?

  • Total cholesterol should be 200 mg/dL or less. More than 240 mg/dL is estimated as a high risk.
  • LDL which commonly called as bad cholesterol is the main cause of plaque build up. Hence, the lower the number is better. As per the recent guidelines, it should be 70 to 130 mg/dL for adults depending on their health.
  • HDL is also known as good cholesterol. Since it is good we need it more to keep arteries clear of LDL. Its good level is 60 mg/dL or higher. Less than 40 mg/dL raise the risk of heart attack.
  • Triglycerides are stored in fat cells throughout the body which gives energy. A high number of it could be perilous to your heart. It should be 10 to 150 mg/dL.

Depending on age, race, gender, and certain health conditions, everyone should get their cholesterol checked regularly. It is guided; an adult above age 20 should get it done in four to six years.

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