Lipid Profile

A lipid profile measures total cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and triglycerides. A physician may order a lipid profile as part of an annual exam or if there is specific concern about CVD, especially coronary artery disease. The National Cholesterol Education Program recommends that individuals age twenty and over have a fasting lipoprotein profile every insoluble: not able to be dissolved in triglyceride: a type of fat lipoprotein: blood protein that carry fats cholesterol: multi-ringed molecule found in animal cell membranes; a type of lipid intestines: the two long tubes that carry out the bulk of the processes of digestion phospholipid: a type of fat used to build cell membranes protein: complex molecule composed of amino acids that performs vital functions in the cell; necessary part of the diet enzyme: protein responsible for carrying out reactions in a cell glycerol: simple molecule that forms a portion of fats white blood cell: immune system cell that fights infection development: the process of change by which an organism becomes more complex

HDL: high density lipoprotein, a blood protein that carries cholesterol


Risk level



Very Low Risk



Low Risk



Average Risk



Moderate Risk



High Risk



SOURCE: National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.

over-the-counter: available without a prescription diet: the total daily food intake, or the types of foods eaten fat: type of food molecule rich in carbon and hydrogen, with high energy content saturated fat: a fat with the maximum possible number of hydrogens; more difficult to break down than unsaturated fats fiber: indigestible plant material which aids digestion by providing bulk sterol: building blocks of steroid hormones; a type of lipid drugs: substances whose administration causes a significant change in the body's function bile: substance produced in the liver which suspends fats for absorption five years. A lipid profile should be done after a nine- to twelve-hour fast without food, liquids, or medication. If fasting is not possible, the values for total cholesterol and HDL-C may still be useful. If total cholesterol is 200 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dl) or higher, or HDL-C is less than 40 mg/dl, the individual will need to have a follow-up lipoprotein profile done to determine LDL-C and triglyceride levels.

Depending on the physician's request, the lipid profile may include the ratio of cholesterol to HDL. This ratio is sometimes used in place of total blood cholesterol. The ratio is obtained by dividing the HDL cholesterol level by the total cholesterol. For example, if a person has total cholesterol of 200 mg/dl and an HDL cholesterol level of 50 mg/dl, the ratio is 4:1. The goal is to keep the ratio below 5:1, and optimally at 3.5:1. There are several over-the-counter cholesterol measuring devices on the market, but none has been endorsed by any medical organizations.

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