Interpret Your Own Lipid Profile

On the other side of 35, overweight, stressed, leading a sedentary lifestyle… this you????? If so, you might need to check how are the lipids (fats) in your body behaving. How would you know this? You would know this after a simple blood test where the pathologist will analyze the different lipid components in your blood. This test is known as lipid profile.

What are the pre-requisites of the test?

You are required to be fasting for at least 10 to 12 hours prior to drawing of the blood sample.

What is the lipid profile?

The lipid profile will give you the values for the following –

  • Total cholesterol
  • LDL-cholesterol
  • HDL-cholesterol
  • VLDL-cholesterol
  • Total triglycerides
  • Ratio of total cholesterol to HDL-c

Total cholesterol: It represents the total amount of cholesterol in your blood. There are two sources from where your body can derive cholesterol – (a) cholesterol can be formed in the human body and (b) cholesterol can be obtained from certain animal foods (Note: Plant-based do not contain cholesterol). A high total cholesterol level is indicative of risk for heart diseases. This cholesterol is present in different fractions of lipids present in our body known as lipoproteins. These lipoproteins are vehicles that carry fat all over the body. LDL-cholesterol, VLDL-cholesterol and HDL-cholesterol are different lipoprotein present in our body.

Total Cholesterol Cut-Offs

Total Cholesterol (mg/dL) Interpretation
<200 Desirable
200-239 Borderline High
 240 High

LDL-cholesterol: This lipoprotein carries the cholesterol from the liver to different parts of the body where they can get deposited. If these lipoproteins get deposited in our blood vessels, they can increase the risk for high blood pressure, heart diseases and stroke. Typically, people who are obese or have diabetes or are physically inactive are at-risk of having high LDL-cholesterol. Therefore, it is generally known as ‘bad cholesterol’.

healthy artery

Healthy Artery

cholesterol artery

Narrowing of the arteries due to LDL-cholesterol deposition

LDL Cholesterol Cut-Offs

LDL-cholesterol (mg/dL) Interpretation
<100 Optimal
100-129 Near Optimal/Above Optimal
130-159 Borderline High
160-189 High
190 Very high

HDL-cholesterol: Commonly referred to as ‘good cholesterol’. It is said to be good because it carries fat from different parts of the body to the liver. Thus, it prevents deposition of fat in various blood vessels and organs. Individuals who have lower than normal levels of HDL-cholesterol are believed to be at-risk of heart diseases and/or diabetes. Generally, HDL-cholesterol, over 40 mg/dL for a man, over 60 mg/dL for a woman is considered to be optimal.

Total triglycerides: Triglycerides are also a type of fats. We typically get triglycerides from our food and some amount of it is also made in our body. Excess energy or calories consumed is stored in the body as fat. This fat which is stored is in the form of triglycerides. So, people who are overweight or obese or those who have sedentary lifestyle, high LDL-cholesterol and low HDL-cholesterol are likely to have high triglyceride levels.

Triglyceride Cut-Offs

Total Triglycerides (mg/dL) Interpretation
< 150 Normal
150-199 Borderline high
200-499 High
 500 Very high

VLDL-cholesterol: This fat is also considered to be ‘bad’ along with LDL-cholesterol. The level of this fat is calculated based on the levels of total cholesterol, LDL-cholesterol, HDL-cholesterol and triglycerides.

Ratio of total cholesterol to HDL-c: A higher ratio indicates greater risk of heart diseases. Ideally, the ratio should be less than 3.5:1.

Who is at-risk for having an abnormal lipid profile?

Abnormally high lipid levels are termed as ‘dyslipidemia’. People are at-risk of dyslipidemia if, they –

  • are overweight/obese
  • consume high-fat foods, fried foods or foods made from refined flour
  • lead a sedentary and/or stressful life
  • are chronic smokers or alcoholics

What can happen because of dyslipidemia?

Dyslipidemia increases the risk for – high blood pressure, atherosclerosis (deposition of fat in the arteries, thus leading to narrowing of the arteries), heart attack and stroke. Abnormal lipid profile also raises the risk of diabetes and related complications.

How can you prevent or treat dyslipidemia?

The treatment of dyslipidemia typically consists of use of lipid-lowering drugs along with lifestyle modification. Here, we shall restrict ourselves to lifestyle modifications alone.

Dietary modifications –

Consume more servings of whole cereals like – bajra, ragi, jowar, wheat bran and legumes such as –  bengal gram (chana), green gram (akha moong), lentil (masoor), rajmah, cow pea (chawli) and soyabean.




Whole green gram or Akha Moong



Includes 5 to 6 servings of vegetables and fruits



Use groundnut oil and/or rice bran oil for cooking. Olive oil, soyabean oil, flax seed oil can be used for salad dressings or when cooking is minimal.

Consume low-fat animal foods such as – tonned/slim/skim milk or remove the cream from the milk, lean meat, egg white (not the yolk). Avoid high-fat animal foods – cream, cheese, paneer, organ meat, egg yolk.

Non-vegetarians can include 2 – 3 servings of fish every week.


Other Lifestyle Modifications –

Exercise for at least 30 – 45 minutes for minimum 5 times a week.


Develop coping strategies of manage your stress levels. Coping strategies can include – yoga, meditation, breathing exercises, time management, pursuing some hobbies – music, dance, painting, photography and so on.

Quit smoking and alcohol consumption



All these lifestyle modifications should be followed regularly for a lifetime for favourable results. There is no short-cut to success and there isn’t one for good health!!!


National Heart, Lung, Blood Institute


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