When your doctor says, ‘Your blood lipid / cholesterol test results look fine’ you naturally breathe a sigh of relief. But what does your blood lipid test actually mean and what can we do if they aren’t so positive.
What Does It Show Us?
Blood lipid tests show us the concentration of fats in our blood such as triglycerides and cholesterol (Total, LDL and HDL). It helps doctors see possible disease risk and alerts us to possible health changes needed.
What Are Triglycerides?
Triglycerides are the major diet and storage form of fat in the body, if levels are elevated in the blood it could mean you are consuming more energy from food than you need or that you might not be doing enough physical movement in your day.
What Is Cholesterol?
Cholesterol is another form of fat that circulates around your body helping build cells and produce hormones. Total cholesterol is the sum of all the cholesterol in your blood. The higher this is the greater the risk of heart disease and stroke.
LDL is thought to be the ‘bad’ cholesterol and HDL is seen to be the ‘good’ cholesterol. So it is of particular concern when your LDL cholesterol levels are high, whereas your HDL cholesterol is low. LDL is linked to the narrowing of arteries with fatty deposits called plaques whereas HDL aids the removal of excess cholesterol from plaques slowing its growth.
The Truth About Cholesterol
Once thought to be elevated by eggs, cholesterol levels have now been found to be related to fat. Of all the nutrients, fat is seen to have the biggest link with blood lipid levels. Despite fats negative reputation they are still essential for our health. So we don’t want to exclude them from our diet completely but rather focus on the type and amount of fats we eat.
3 Types of Fats
As mentioned earlier, triglycerides are the major form of fats in our diet however they can be broken down into 3 types, unsaturated, saturated and trans.
Saturated and trans fats are the fats you want to try to limit in your diet as they are linked negatively to cholesterol levels and increase the risk of heart disease. They are found in foods such as coconut oil, baked goods, fried and takeaway foods.
On the other hand unsaturated fats such as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated (omega-3 and omega-6) fats are deemed to be the healthier fats as they have the opposite effect to saturated and trans fats. Good food sources include avocado, tuna, nuts, seeds and cooking oils made from plants and seeds (olive, rice bran and sesame).
Seeing an Accredited Practicing Dietitian can help provide individually tailored advice to suit your specific needs. They can help you manage high blood lipid concentrations or reduce your risk if you have a family history of high cholesterol or heart disease.
Article written by Stephanie Sims, Interning Dietitian at ATUNE Health Centres.