The lipid profile is used to help determine an individual’s risk of heart disease and to help make decisions about what treatment may be best if there is borderline or high risk. The results of the lipid profile are considered along with other known risk factors for heart disease to develop a plan for treatment and follow-up. Depending on the results and other risk factors, treatment options may involve lifestyle changes such as diet and exercise or lipid-lowering medications such as statins.
The lipid profile measures cholesterol, triglycerides, high density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C, “good” cholesterol) as well as calculates low density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C, “bad” cholesterol). Triglycerides are a form of fat and a major source of energy for the body. Below are the desirable ranges for the components of the lipid profile:
Cholesterol <200 mg/dL (5.18 mmol/L)
HDL-cholesterol > 40 mg/dL (1.04 mmol/L)
LDL-cholesterol <100 mg/dL* (2.59 mmol/L)
Triglycerides <150 mg/dL (1.70 mmol/L)
* optimal; levels will depend on the number and type of risk factors present and why testing is being done
Some other information may be reported as part of the lipid profile. These parameters are calculated from the results of the tests identified above.
Non-HDL-C — calculated by subtracting the HDL-C result from the total cholesterol result; this is considered to be the portion of cholesterol that is most likely to lead to hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis).
Very low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (VLDL-C) — calculated by dividing the triglyceride value by 5 (if in mg/dL, or by 2.2 if in mmol/L); this formula is based on the typical composition of VLDL particles; there is growing evidence that VLDL-C plays an important role in the process that leads to the formation of plaques in arteries.
Cholesterol/HDL ratio — calculated by dividing the HDL-C result into the total cholesterol result; a higher ratio indicates a higher risk of heart disease while a lower ratio indicates a lower risk.