What are Cholesterol and Lipids?
Cholesterol is one of several types of fats, also called lipids, that are found in your body. The body needs cholesterol to make hormones, vitamin D, and other substances that aid in digestion. There are two types of cholesterol in your body, LDL and HDL. LDL is often referred to as "bad cholesterol" and HDL is often referred to as "good cholesterol". It is important to have healthy levels of both. Higher levels of LDL can increase the chances of heart disease, stroke, and other health issues. Triglycerides are the main constituents of natural fats and oils and high concentrations in the blood indicate elevated risk of stroke.
Why Get Tested?
The American Heart Association recommends that all adults age 20 or older have their cholesterol checked regularly. You should also check your cholesterol levels if you:
- Are a man over the age of 45
- A woman over the age of 55
- Are at high risk for coronary artery disease
- Are overweight or eat an unhealthy diet
- Are physically inactive
- Smoke cigarettes
- Have diabetes
- Have a family history of high cholesterol or heart attack
What Will My Results Tell Me?
The results includes the calculation of four types of fats (lipids) in your blood: Total cholesterol, LDL (low-desity lipoprotein), HDL (high-density lipoprotein), and triglycerides. Ideal levels of these fats are:
- Total Cholesterol:< 200mg/dL
- Triglycerides:< 150mg/dL
- LDL: < 130mg/dL or < 100mg/dL for those with diabetes or high total cholesterol
- HDL: > 55mg/dL for women > 45mg/dL for men
What is Hemoglobin A1c?
Hemoglobin is a protein found in red blood cells. Blood glucose levels are regulated by the hormones insulin and glucagon. When an individual has imbalanced
regulation of glucose levels, the excess glucose will bind with the hemoglobin and become Hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c). Because HbA1c does not revert back to hemoglobin, the level of HbA1c is useful for understanding how your body has regulated glucose over the last several months. Higher levels of HbA1c can indicate prediabetes or diabetes. Additional diagnostic testing is necessary to diagnose diabetes.
Why Get Tested?
Many people who have prediabetes do not display any symptoms. For this reason, it is particularly important to check the HbA1c levels if you are at a high risk due to a family history of diabetes. The common symptoms of diabetes may include:
- Frequent urinating
- Feeling very thirsty
- Feeling very hungry
- Extreme fatigue
- Blurry vision
- Cuts and bruises that are slow to heal
- Weight loss
- Tingling, pain, or numbness in the hands and/or feet
What Will My Test Results Tell Me?
Your HbA1c test result is reported in percentages. The higher the percentage, the higher your blood glucose levels have been:
- A normal HbA1c level is below 5.7 percent.
- The prediabetic range is between 5.7 and 6.4 percent. Prediabetes is a risk factor for developing type 2 diabetes.
- An HbA1c level above 6.5 percent is considered diabetic.