It’s very possible that, when your MD orders lab work, you have no idea what or why you’re having blood drawn. Well, let’s clear up the confusion when it comes to your cholesterol labs.
The terms “lipid panel,” “lipid profile,” and “lipoprotein profile” are used interchangeably to order the same set of labs. To make reading this easier, I’m going to use “lipid profile” from here on out.
“Lipid” is simply a medical term for “fat.” A lipid profile measures fatty substances in your blood. Cholesterol is one type of fat.
When you eat food containing cholesterol or when your body produces cholesterol and releases it into your bloodstream, the cholesterol will attach to a protein. This package of cholesterol plus a protein is called a lipoprotein (lipid or fat plus protein). A lipid profile measures lipoprotein levels in your blood.
Lipid profiles include five components:
1.) LDL -- “bad” cholesterol. LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol carries mostly cholesterol, some protein, and minimal triglycerides throughout your circulation. LDL should be less than 130 mg/dL, ideally less than 100 mg/dL.
2.) VLDL -- “bad” cholesterol. VLDL (very low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol contains minimal protein and mainly transports triglycerides. VLDL should be less than 40 mg/dL.
3.) Triglycerides. Triglycerides are a type of fat in the blood, not a type of cholesterol. Triglycerides are frequently used to estimate VLDL (“bad”) cholesterol. Here’s the calculation: triglycerides divided by 5 equals VLDL cholesterol. Triglycerides should be less than 200 mg/dL, ideally less than 150 mg/dL.