Cholesterol and triglycerides are circulating forms of lipids within the blood stream. Elevations of cholesterol (hypercholesterolemia) and elevated triglycerides (hypertriglyceridemia) together are known as hyperlipidemia. Elevations of these circulating lipids are associated with heart disease and plaque buildup on the arteries of the brain, kidneys, legs and heart.
Cholesterol and triglyceride levels are also strongly associated with weight gain and obesity. They represent an important way to measure the circulating lipids that play a role in the development of heart disease, strokes, kidney failure and other arterial disease.
A normal cholesterol level is generally under 200 mg/dL, although there is increasing evidence that we should probably all be striving for a cholesterol level that is under 175. For people who are seriously overweight, with body mass index (BMI) over 35, weight loss surgery is very effective in reducing lipid levels.
|Interpretation||Total Cholesterol (mg/dL)||HDL Cholesterol (mg/dL)||LDL Cholesterol (mg/dL)|
Because hyperlipidemia is so important in these diseases, it has been studied a great deal in the last several decades. There are now even more specific detailed breakdowns of the different types of cholesterol and triglycerides that circulate in the blood stream. More sophisticated testing can be done to separate the “good” cholesterol from the “bad” cholesterol. Our blood stream carries these lipids on certain carrier molecules or particles.
The size of the particles appears to be important in determining whether or not the lipids will in fact lead to strokes and heart attacks. For example, it is now known that HDL cholesterol (high density lipoprotein cholesterol) exerts a favorable effect on our bodies generally, whereas LDL (low density lipoprotein cholesterol) exerts a negative effect on our bodies and increases the risks of heart disease and stroke.
A normal level of triglycerides is less than 150 mg/dL. Triglycerides are a type of circulating lipid that consists of high energy fatty acids. Triglycerides provide energy for cells to function and serve as a way to store excess energy in fat cells. By eating more calories than your body burns, you increase the likelihood of high levels of triglycerides in the bloodstream.
|Normal||<150 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL)|
|Borderline High||150-199 mg/dL|
|Very high||<=500 mg/dL|
Lowering cholesterol and triglycerides is an important way to reduce the chances you may suffer from a heart attack, stroke, or other form of atherosclerotic disease.
So what can you do? Well, for starters you can lose weight. It is very clear that weight loss in and of itself results in breakdown of body fats and lipids and decreases the circulating cholesterol and triglycerides. It is very common for people to see lipid levels fall strikingly as they embark upon medically supervised weight loss.
Dr. Kent Sasse is a nationally recognized weight loss expert and the author of the Sasse Guide to Outpatient Weight Loss Surgery. He is the founder of the iMetabolic Institute, and the Medical Director of the Western Bariatric Institute.