Lipid Profile


Last Updated December 20th, 2021

What is a lipid profile?

A lipid profile is a combination of blood tests performed to check the cholesterol levels and the level of triglycerides in the blood. These are nothing but fat content present in your bloodstream. Unhealthy levels of lipids can clog your arteries and increase your risk of heart disease and stroke. These are also responsible for unhealthy weight gain.

Who needs to undergo a lipid profile test?

A lipid profile is a snapshot of how much healthy/unhealthy fats do you have circulating in your blood. High cholesterol is linked to heart diseases, obesity, diabetes, etc. Those who are at a higher risk of these conditions or have been diagnosed with these issues need to undergo a lipid profile.

In many cases, it might be prescribed as a part of aregular health check-up routine. Lipid profile can be used to determine the likelihood of cholesterol-related diseases. It is also conducted in order to test the success rate of a particular cholesterol-lowering medicine/treatment and/or lipid-lowering lifestyle changes.

How will I know if I should get a lipid profile done?

If you fall into one or more of these categories, you should discuss with your doctor about getting a lipid profile done.
– Smoker
– Sedentary lifestyle (no physical exercise in daily routine)
– Unhealthy diet (high sugar, salt, fats consumption)
– Have a pre-existing health condition such as hypertension, diabetes, heart problem
– Have a family history of the above-mentioned conditions
– Male > 45 years or female > 50-55 years
– Overweight/obese

How prevalent is the issue of high cholesterol in India?

High cholesterol is a major lifestyle disease prevalent in India. It is a precursor to a number of fatal conditions. Cholesterol is a waxy, fatty substance present in the blood. Our body requires some amount of cholesterol for critical functions such as digestion, hormone synthesis, and vitamin D absorption. But if the levels increase beyond a certain threshold, it can turn chronic and inflammatory.

As per the latest statistics, every 33 seconds one person dies due to a heart attack in India. It has been observed that with every 40 point increase in cholesterol levels, the risk death by heart attack (in young demography) increases by 200%. Currently, almost 75% of Indians have unhealthy cholesterol levels and roughly 72% have low levels of healthy cholesterol.

What information does a lipid profile give?

As mentioned before, the lipid profile provides valuable information on the levels of cholesterol present in the blood. It actually sheds light on these specific parameters that make up you complete cholesterol count:
– HDL – C or High-Density Lipoprotein Cholesterol (the “good cholesterol”)
– LDL – C or Low-Density Lipoprotein Cholesterol (the “bad” cholesterol)
– LDL to HDL ratio
– VLDL-C Or Very Low-Density Lipoprotein Cholesterol
– Triglycerides
– Total cholesterol

Should I undergo a lipid profile test?

If you experience the following symptoms, your doctor might ask you to undergo a lipid profile test:
– Breathing difficulty
– Upper abdomen pain and discomfort
– Nausea and vomiting
– Heartburn
– High blood pressure
– Unexplained sweating
– General malaise and weakness
– Upper back and arm pain

What is the cost of lipid profile test in India?

In India, the complete lipid profile can cost anywhere between Rs 900-1100/-. The cost may vary depending on the diagnostic center.

How to prepare for the lipid profile test?

You need to follow these important preparation steps before undergoing a lipid profile:
– This test requires fasting. Don’t eat/drink 12-14 hours before the test. You can only drink water.
– If you are on diabetes medications (either oral or injectable), inform your doctor and confirm whether you can take these before the test.
– You must refrain from consuming a fatty meal before taking the test.
– No alcohol must be consumed a day before undergoing the lipid profile test.
– Avoid performing high impact/strenuous exercise before the test.
– You should provide complete information to the doctor on your medical history, family history of heart diseases/hypertension, and what exact medications and supplements you are on.
– If you have experienced a heart attack, undergone surgery, had an injury/infection/trauma, or were pregnant, you must wait at least 2 months before undergoing a lipid profile test.

How is a lipid profile test performed?

– The blood sample for lipid profile is collected by drawing a small amount of blood from your arm.
– The pathologist will clean a small area on your arm with an antiseptic solution, locate a vein close to the surface of the skin, and insert a syringe to draw blood.
– This is a relatively quick and painless procedure.
– Once the blood sample has been collected, the puncture on the skin will be cleaned and covered with a bandage.
– This is a routine out-patient procedure which means you can go back home once the blood sample is taken.
– Ensure that on and before the day of the test you have followed all the preparation steps correctly.

Do I need to fast before undergoing lipid profile?

Yes, you should ideally fast 12-14 hours (overnight fasting) before the test. Ensure that the last meal you consume before the test is not too oily and fatty. There are several sources that say that fasting is not a mandate, which is partly correct. Fasting is advised so that a more accurate cholesterol reading is obtained.

What are the precautions I need to take before undergoing a lipid profile test?

Keep in mind the following dos and don’ts of a lipid profile test to ensure that you get an accurate lipid reading.

Dos Don’ts
Inform your doctor about all the medications and supplements you are on.Eat or drink anything fatty/sugary  12-14 hours before the test.
Discuss your medical history and family history of cholesterol in details with your doctor. Consume alcohol before or on the day of the test.
Confirm whether you can take diabetes medications before the test.Take any medication without informing the doctor.
In case you have been experiencing any symptoms such as nausea and headaches lately, inform the doctor.Perform any strenuous exercise on the day of the test.
Go for the test during morning hours.

Are there any risks associated with a lipid profile test?

Lipid profile is a simple and painless procedure that takes not more than a few seconds. It usually causes no side-effects. There might be a slight bump or reddish coloration of skin at the site of syringe insertion. This generally goes away within a day.

What does a normal (healthy) lipid profile look like?

Cholesterol levels are measured in the unit mg/dL. The following are the normal ranges of different cholesterol component present in the blood (for adults).

Cholesterol Component Normal Borderline Unhealthy
Total serum cholesterol < 200mg/dL 200-239 mg/dL >240 mg/dL
HDL > 60 mg/dL 50-60 mg/dL <40 mg/dL
LDL <100 mg/dL 130-159 mg/dL160-189 mg/dL
Triglycerides < 150 mg/dL 150-199 mg/dL200-499 mg/dL
VLDL 5-40mg/dL 40- 49 mg/dL >50 mg/dL
Total cholesterol: HDL4:1 (optimal) 4:1 – 5:1 >5:1

What critical information can a lipid profile provide?

In all the above cases, except HDL, the lower the value of the reading the better.
– Total cholesterol above 240 mg/dL doubles the risk of a heart attack.
– If you have LDL reading in the range 100-129 mg/dL, it is considered near-optimal. However, you must keep your cholesterol count in check and get this test done regularly.
– In the case of HDL, having a higher number indicates a healthier factor. HDL is the good cholesterol and it helps in flushing out LDL cholesterol from the body. If you have HDL count < 40 mg/dL, it increases your risk of a heart attack.
– There are cases where the triglyceride level can increase beyond 500 mg/dL.
– In most cases, high triglycerides levels are because of unhealthy lifestyle habits such as smoking, excessive drinking, etc.
– Certain medications such as steroids can also lead to elevated triglycerides. This means you need to make necessary changes in your lifestyle in the long run.

What are the normal lipid ranges for children and teens?

This table demonstrates the different ranges of lipid components as observed in case of children and teens:

Cholesterol type Acceptable BorderlineUnhealthy
Total cholesterol < 170 mg/dL 170-199 mg/dL >200 mg/dL
HDL >45 mg/dL ~35-45 mg/dL< 35mg/dL
LDL <100 mg/dL 100-129 mg/dL
>130 mg/dL
Triglycerides <150 mg/dL 150-199 mg/dL>200 mg/dL

My lipid profile results are abnormal. What should I do?

Don’t jump into making dietary and medication changes, in case you have abnormal lipid levels, without consulting your doctor. These tables provide a general range of what is considered healthy and unhealthy.You need to discuss your lipid profile in detail with your doctor and then follow the cholesterol-lowering protocol carefully.Your cholesterol numbers alone cannot provide a complete picture. The doctor needs to take into account the risk factors associated with your body before coming up with a treatment plan.

How often should I get my cholesterol levels checked?

If you are an adult above the age of 20, you should get your lipid profile test done once every five years. In case, you fall in 1 or more risk pool such as a family history of heart disease, smoking, sedentary lifestyle, etc you might require more frequent lipid profile tests. Above the age of 40, you should get this test and check-up done once a year.

How can I maintain healthy cholesterol levels?

Inclusion of the following habits in your daily living, in the long run, can help you control your cholesterol levels:
– Consume a heart-healthy, cholesterol-lowering diet. Include fatty fish, vegetables, fruits, and whole grains in your every meal.
– Indulge in regular aerobic exercises. These tend to increase your HDL level and bring down LDL level.
– Your doctor might prescribe you a few medications such as statins, niacin, and fibrates.
– You need to quit unhealthy habits such as smoking, drinking, and excessive consumption of fatty/sugary food.
– Follow up with your doctor regularly and get further lipid profile tests done to determine whether these steps are working in your favor.

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