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What is lipid profile ?

The fatty structures that are present in the membranes or the outer linings of the cells as well as in the blood in animals are referred to as lipid. The generic or the common name for lipid is cholesterol. There are two main reasons that lead to the development of lipid in the blood. Lipid is produced by the liver and can also be caused due to the kind of dietary intake.

If the lipid levels rise above the normal limits, then it can lead to serious health abnormalities. It is more essential for those individuals who are at constant risk to developing cardiac problems to maintain the lipid levels. Such individuals should be especially careful to regulate the ‘bad’ lipid levels OR the low-density lipoprotein or LDL levels.

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Types of cholesterol (lipid)

An increase in the levels of LDL cholesterol within the walls of the various arteries can result in blockage of the arteries. This may eventually lead to cardiac arrests. Therefore, a gradual build up of LDL cholesterol increases the chance of developing cardiac abnormalities.

It is also important to note that there is a cholesterol that is good for the body and is called the ‘good’ lipid or cholesterol. In medical terms it is referred to as high-density lipoprotein or HDL cholesterol. HDL cholesterol is good for one’s health due to the reason that in assists in the prevention of artery clogging. Hence, higher levels of HDL cholesterol are more often related to lowered chances of developing heart conditions.

A lipid profile which is also known as a lipid panel is a type of blood test conducted by a doctor to test the levels of cholesterol in one’s blood. A lipid profile will normally indicate the following:

  • LDL cholesterol
  • Total cholesterol
  • HDL cholesterol
  • Triglycerides, which is a type of fat typically built-up by increased intake of alcohol and sweets

There are certain precautions that one needs to take before undergoing a lipid profile test. One should avoid the intake of food or drinks other than water for 9 to 12 hours before the test (also known as lipid profile fasting time). Such precautions are essential so that the blood sample may produce the most efficient and accurate results.

It has become a well known fact that LDL cholesterol levels are primarily responsible for greater risk to heart ailments. Hence most of the treatments for heart conditions are directed at lowering the lipid levels or the LDL cholesterol levels. It should however be noted that people differ in their underlying risk to developing heart diseases. Hence, each individual differs in its respective LDL cholesterol targets.

  • The LDL cholesterol values or the lipid profile normal values for the general population should be below 130 mg/dL OR 3.4 mmol/L.

Note:  mg/dL is an abbreviation for milligrams (mg) of cholesterol per deciliter (dL) of blood and mmol/L is an abbreviation for millimoles (mmol) of cholesterol per liter (L) of blood.

  • For people with some risk factors for heart conditions, the target LDL cholesterol generally tends to be below 100 mg/dL OR 2.6 mmol/L
  • Individuals who are at excessive risk to heart ailments, the target LDL cholesterol is usually below target LDL cholesterol. Thus it is better for all individuals to maintain lower levels of LDL cholesterol

Individuals who fall under any of the following categories are considered to be at an elevated risk for heart diseases:

  • When the person has a history of a cardiac arrest or a stroke
  • When the person has artery blockages in the neck or the carotid artery disease
  • When the person has artery blockages in the legs/arms or the peripheral artery disease

In addition, individuals who have any two or more of the below mentioned risk factors may also be placed in the very high risk group:

  • Diabetes
  • A history of premature heart ailments in the family
  • Low levels of HDL cholesterol
  • Smoking
  • High blood pressure
  • Elevated levels of lipoprotein (a)
  • An increased age of 45 years or above for men and 55 years or above for women

Interpretation of the cholesterol numbers or the lipid profile values

  • The cholesterol levels are measured in milligrams (mg) of cholesterol per deciliter (dL) of blood in the United States and some countries.
  • The cholesterol levels are measured in millimoles (mmol) of cholesterol per liter (L) of blood in most European countries and Canada.

Once an individual gets the results of the  cholesterol test or the lipid panel/lipid profile, the guidelines mentioned below have to be considered to determine whether the target range for the lipid levels have been met or not.

As per Mayo Clinic, the details given below can help an individual to read a lipid profile report.

Total cholesterol
U.S. and some other countries Canada and most of Europe
Below 200 mg/dL Below 5.2 mmol/L Desirable
200-239 mg/dL 5.2-6.2 mmol/L Borderline high
240 mg/dL and above Above 6.2 mmol/L High


LDL cholesterol
U.S. and some other countries Canada and most of Europe
Below 70 mg/dL Below 1.8 mmol/L Ideal for people at very high risk of heart disease
Below 100 mg/dL Below 2.6 mmol/L Ideal for people at risk of heart disease
100-129 mg/dL 2.6-3.3 mmol/L Near ideal
130-159 mg/dL 3.4-4.1 mmol/L Borderline high
160-189 mg/dL 4.1-4.9 mmol/L High
190 mg/dL and above Above 4.9 mmol/L Very high


HDL cholesterol
U.S. and some other countries Canada and most of Europe
Below 40 mg/dL (men)
Below 50 mg/dL (women)
Below 1 mmol/L (men)
Below 1.3 mmol/L (women)
50-59 mg/dL 1.3-1.5 mmol/L Better
60 mg/dL and above Above 1.5 mmol/L Best


U.S. and some other countries Canada and most of Europe
Below 150 mg/dL Below 1.7 mmol/L Desirable
150-199 mg/dL 1.7-2.2 mmol/L Borderline high
200-499 mg/dL 2.3-5.6 mmol/L High
500 mg/dL and above Above 5.6 mmol/L Very high

Treatment of lipid levels

  • Treatment includes dietary changes such as decreased intake of cholesterol from dairy products and meat and increased intake of fruits and leafy vegetables. Additionally, it may include lifestyle changes such as losing excess weight, exercise and quitting smoking.
  • Medications such as statins may be advised by doctors to treat severe cases of elevated lipid or cholesterol levels.


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  4. Platelet Count Normal Range

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