What is cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a waxy substance found in the blood that plays many important roles in the body, including helping to build hormones. Excessive or high cholesterol levels may result in fatty deposits in blood vessels (specifically, arteries) and lead to an increased risk of heart disease. High cholesterol may be managed with medications and/or lifestyle modifications (such as regular physical activity and dietary changes).
What’s the difference between LDL and HDL cholesterol?
- LDL cholesterol = low-density lipoprotein. This is often referred to as “bad cholesterol” because increased levels may lead to arterial plaque deposits. (Arteries are blood vessels that carry blood away from the heart and to the rest of the body. Plaque is a hardened mixture of fat, cholesterol, and other substances in the blood.) If unaddressed, these plaque deposits may lead to restricted blood flow throughout the body which can in turn lead to an increased risk of heart attack or stroke. Having a high level of LDL cholesterol can increase this risk. There are many factors that can influence higher LDL levels, such as family history, genetics, and dietary habits.
- HDL cholesterol = high-density lipoprotein. HDL is often referred to as the “good cholesterol” because it absorbs cholesterol and carries it back to the liver. This may in turn lower your risk of heart disease and stroke.
What does it mean if I have high cholesterol?
A high cholesterol level may indicate a higher risk of plaque buildup, heart disease, and high blood pressure. This isn’t always the case, though, since total cholesterol includes seemingly beneficial lipids such as HDL. So it’s best to talk with your healthcare provider to understand what high cholesterol may mean for your health. A lipid panel (as part of a broader evaluation and discussion with your healthcare provider) may help you better understand your current risk for cardiovascular events and what actions you may be able to take.
What is total cholesterol?
Total cholesterol refers to the combined amounts of different kinds of cholesterol in the body. Total cholesterol includes HDL, LDL, as well as some smaller cholesterol particles.
What are triglycerides?
Triglycerides are the most common type of fat in the body. Your body uses triglycerides for fuel when it needs extra energy. But high triglyceride levels may pose a risk to your heart health and may lead to an increased risk of stroke, heart attack, and cardiovascular disease. That’s because triglycerides can contribute to plaque formation in arteries, which can lead to a narrowing of the arteries. Your heart then has to work harder to pump blood to your organs and other body parts. Taking a lipid panel, which often includes triglycerides (like our Cholesterol & Lipids test kit) can tell you if your triglyceride levels are elevated.