We are believers in taking control of and advocating for our own health. After all, if we don’t, who will? Standard blood tests that your physician runs every year or so often don’t run all of the relevant labs to get a full picture of your health. And if they do, do you even understand how to read them? Do you simply wait for your doc to give you a call and tell you everything looks “normal”? What is normal anyway? Spoiler: oftentimes the “normal” ranges of blood tests are not the optimal ranges we want to aim for.
It’s time to understand these markers and feel confident about where you are health-wise. Levels Health published “The ultimate guide to understanding your cholesterol panel and metabolic blood tests” where they brought in 8 of their trusted advisors, who are experts in metabolic health, to share their feedback on blood test markers. It is informative and approachable which is important for a topic that may seem too large to grasp on your own. They share the importance of each test and the optimal levels we might want to aim for (not just the “normal” range). What makes this article additionally interesting is that it highlights a phenomenon in the medical field that we don’t often discuss: medical science research is never complete. It’s an ongoing process that will constantly evolve and be debated. While this article brings together 8 experts who are some of the most informed in this field, and there is consensus on some things, they even have some differing opinions.
The article shares information on 12 different tests: High sensitivity C-reactive protein, Hemoglobin A1c, Fasting Glucose, Fasting Insulin, Low-Density Lipoprotein Cholesterol (LDL-C), Triglycerides, High-Density Lipoprotein Cholesterol (HDL-C), Total Cholesterol, Total Cholesterol-to-HDL Ratio, Triglyceride-to-HDL Ratio, Post-Meal Glucose, Homeostatic Model Assessment for Insulin Resistance. We will be highlighting the cholesterol tests.
Low-Density Lipoprotein Cholesterol: “often implicated in plaque buildup leading to atherosclerosis, sometimes called “bad” cholesterol.”
Dr. Mark Hyman explains that “We measure and treat LDL because we have the best drugs to treat it, not because it is the most important marker of your risk of heart disease. In fact, your LDL cholesterol is a very bad predictor of your risk of heart disease when compared with the total cholesterol-to-HDL ratio. And this is not as good a predictor as the triglyceride-to-HDL ratio.”
The experts’ consensus: LDL <100 mg/dl, but less than 70 mg/dL is considered optimal by some.
High-Density Lipoprotein Cholesterol: “a type of complex made of proteins and fat that carry cholesterol in the blood. When cholesterol is in an HDL particle, it is sometimes called “good” cholesterol because HDL carries some cholesterol back to the liver, where it is broken down and passed out of the body through waste.”
Dr. Dom D’Agostino explains that “Epidemiological studies have shown that higher concentrations of HDL (>60 mg/dL) are associated with reduced cardiovascular risk. For a given level of LDL, the risk of heart disease increases 10-fold as the HDL varies from high to low.”
The experts’ consensus: HDL > 60 mg/dL, but the higher the better (i.e., up towards 90 mg/dL)
Total Cholesterol: a measure of all the cholesterol in your blood, including HDL and LDL.
The experts’ consensus: Total Cholesterol < than 180 mg/dL. But there’s more to it, as this number needs to be taken in context with triglyceride and HDL levels.