A friend linked me to this article, which is a discussion of what cholesterol tests actually show, and how useful the information actually is. It’s interesting, and in combination with the other cholesterol information I’ve been looking at, it really helps to paint a clearer picture of what a lipid test can do for you. So I’m going to share with you all the results of my very own personal cholesterol test, which I had done on Tuesday.
- Total Cholesterol: 170
- LDL: 120
- HDL: 40
- TRG: 48
There are other numbers, but those are the big ones. Those are pretty good by anyone’s standards. General guidelines (from the Mayo Clinic, but also as given by my doctor) are as follows:
- Below 200 = Desirable
- 200 – 239 = Borderline
- 240 and above = High
- Below 70 = Ideal for people at high risk of heart disease
- 71 – 100 = Ideal for peopel at risk of heart disease
- 100 – 129 = Near ideal
- 130 – 159 = Borderline High
- 160 – 189 = High
- 190 and above = Very High
- Below 40 (for men) = Poor
- 41-59 = Better
- 60 and above = Best
- Below 150 = Desirable
- 150-199 = Borderline High
- 200-499 = High
- 500 and above = Very High
*The American Heart Association recommends trying to get below 100 on triglycerides.
Okay, so putting my numbers in here, my total cholesterol is solid, my LDL is just fine for someone with minimal risk of heart disease, my HDL is lower than I’d like but still in the good range, and my triglycerides are outstanding. Overall, I’d say I’m doing well, according to the traditional reading of these numbers. However, what does a more nuanced view suggest?
For one, total cholesterol isn’t especially important, because it isn’t very tightly correlated to heart disease. LDL count is a lot less important than the type of LDL (large buoyant or small dense) and my very low TRG numbers suggest that my LDL is more likely to be the harmless kind. My TRG numbers being low are good by everyone’s standard. Anything else worth knowing? Well HDL:TRG ratio is actually pretty well correlated with heart disease risk. My HDL is 40 and my TRG is 48, so my ratio is about .83 or so. My goal is to have them closer to 1:1 or even higher, so that’s not perfect, but it’s pretty darned good anyway. Obviously, higher HDL would be better, and I think I’ll be able to get there. I’m just going to focus on eating more saturated fats and continuing to eat minimal carbohydrate to keep my TRG low. That sounds kind of delicious, actually. I love this stuff.
So what have we learned? For one, a lot of the numbers people worry a lot about, especially total cholesterol, aren’t actually worth freaking out about unless you’re outside of a pretty wide range. Second, we’ve learned that LDL total itself isn’t all that useful, since the two different kinds are very different in their health effects. Third, we’ve learned that a high-fat, low-carb diet doesn’t make your cholesterol skyrocket. Because if it did, mine would look a whole lot worse than it does. Unfortunately, I don’t have a before test to compare to, but it’s hard to imagine that it was significantly better than this one and that my diet has driven my numbers to…still pretty good. So yeah. Safe to say I’m responding well.
Also, this is promising: Harvard School of Public Health says it’s time to stop talking about low fat
I don’t know that we’re likely to agree on what “healthy” fats are, but it sounds like their against trans fats, and that’s a huge step. Maybe someday they’ll be on board with saturated fats from healthy, well-treated animals too. Fingers crossed.
Also also, I’m just going to leave this here. Wheat: The Unhealthy Whole Grain
Thanks for reading!