What is a Lipid Profile test?

Lipids are fatty compounds that perform a range of functions in the body. Within the body, lipids work as a source of energy, regulate hormones, transmit nerve impulses, cushion vital organs, and transport fat-soluble nutrients. Lipids are part of the cell membrane structure that maintain cell membrane fluidity and flexibility. However, excess lipids can increase the risk of developing heart disease as they cause deposits in the artery walls.


To evaluate your cardiovascular risk factors, healthcare providers may ask you to go for a lipid panel test which measures the levels of cholesterol and other fats in the blood. The lipid profile test is also called a lipid panel, lipid test or cholesterol test. 


What does a lipid profile test measure?


A lipid profile test measures four types of fats in your blood: 


1. Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol: It is also known as “bad cholesterol” since it forms fatty deposits (plaques) in the arteries and negatively affects your cardiovascular health. Too much of it in the blood can reduce the blood flow, sometimes leading to the rupture of arteries and causing heart attack or stroke. 


2. High-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol: It is also known as “good cholesterol” since it clears the bad LDL cholesterol and prevents its build-up. It helps to keep the arteries open and allows the blood to flow more easily. 


3. Very low-density lipoproteins (VLDL): It is also called “bad cholesterol.”. A high level of VLDL can clog your arteries and lead to a heart attack. 


4. Triglycerides: These are lipids that give energy to your body. They are basically the end product of digesting and breaking down fats in food. Our body turns extra calories into triglycerides and stores them in fat cells. Butter, oil and most other fats in your food are triglycerides. High levels of triglycerides are linked with factors such as eating too many sweets, alcohol, being sedentary or having diabetes. 


Who needs to get a lipid profile test done?


There are many reasons for which an individual may need to go for a lipid panel test. A person smoking cigarettes in large numbers may have higher cholesterol and triglyceride levels, which means they need to go for a lipid panel test. In case a person is suffering from obesity, the cholesterol levels are likely to be on the higher side. Likewise, higher consumption of alcohol may negatively impact cholesterol levels and heart health. A diabetic person also needs to go for a blood lipids check once a year or as advised by the doctor. Adults with a history of kidney problems or an underactive thyroid gland also require more frequent testing.


Why is a lipid profile test done?


A lipid profile test is done to know about your cardiovascular risk factors. Higher levels of cholesterol can lead to buildup of fatty deposits in your blood vessels which can eventually block the blood to flow easily through the arteries. Sometimes, these deposits can result in a stroke or heart attack. It is used as a tool to: 


  • To find out if your cholesterol levels are at borderline or in a high-risk category
  • As a follow-up to evaluate the treatment undergone and the diet control programme
  • To monitor response to the treatment, such as cholesterol medications
  • To monitor other medical conditions, such as liver disease


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