Why Standard Cholesterol Tests Fall Short

Marie Parks

You receive a call from your doctor’s assistant telling you the cholesterol test you took came back fine. You happily go on with your day with this news and forget about it until your next checkup…without knowing that you’re missing some pretty critical data.

Knowing your cholesterol levels is definitely important, but this information is just scratching the surface compared to other crucial cholesterol-related health markers that can be tested.

Unfortunately, most doctors don’t perform these additional tests routinely. Hopefully, by getting this information out, more people will request these tests or find a laboratory where they can have them done. The information can truly be lifesaving.

Standard Cholesterol Tests are Limited

A typical cholesterol profile includes the basic measurements like total cholesterol, high density lipoprotein (HDL)—also known as the “good cholesterol”, and low density lipoprotein (LDL)—otherwise known as the “bad cholesterol.”

These values are good to know, but they’re just the tip of the iceberg as they provide the total amount of cholesterol in the LDL particles...but they do not tell the number or size of LDL particles that are circulating in your blood.

Particle Size Matters

Why does the size of LDL particles matter? Picture a basket of baseballs and beach balls…which balls will be easier to slide past the goalie to score a goal? Just like the baseball, small, dense LDL particles more easily slide into blood vessels and start the process of dangerous plaque formation.

Therefore, it’s more favorable to have a low particle number count combined with large and buoyant LDL!

How to Measure Particle Number and Size

While LDL particle count and size aren’t included in a standard cholesterol test, they can be directly measured by a nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy test.

Three More Must-Do Cholesterol Tests

Oxidized LDL is more likely to enter into the arteries, triggering inflammation and plaque build-up. Also, another reason you don’t want to have too many small and dense LDL particles is because these oxidize easier. When an apple is cut up, it turns brown and decays after about 10 minutes as a result of oxidation…you don’t want that happening to your LDL!

Myeloperoxidase (MPO) is a test that’s particularly important, especially for those with a family history of cardiovascular disease. MPO is an enzyme that’s released when white blood cells are attacking…usually foreign invaders, so this is a good sign. However, high levels of MPO may be a sign that this attack response is taking place in your arteries due to the presence of oxidized LDL, which results in inflammation and plaque formation. Elevated MPO is a double-edged sword because it also oxidizes other LDL as well as your beneficial HDL.

F2-Isoprostanes are produced as a result of oxidation and cause a cascade of cellular damage. Studies have indicated that people with higher levels of F2-isoprostanes are up to 30 times more likely to develop heart disease!

The Bottom Line

Don’t wait until it’s too late to know this essential piece of health information so that if necessary you can start taking action!

There are other tests (and blood panels that combine various tests) in addition to those discussed in this blog that may be helpful depending on your health status and history. If you'd like more info, contact our Wellness Specialists at 1-800-226-2370 - they'll happily point you in the right direction.

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