Health and Strength of Mind, Body and Soul
   Home      How to Read and Understand a Lipid Profile Report, A Guide for All

How to Make Sense of a Lipid Profile Report

Donald J Reinhardt, April 24, 2017 

a copyrighted Donald Reinhardt Article first and originally published at Suite 101

Determine facts about lipid chemistry profiles and tests right here

Understanding personal medical reports is helpful to managing your life and health better. Lipid profile knowledge is an important and basic step to healthcare management and control.

Lipid profiles are an important part of many yearly physical exams, and understanding personal medical reports is important for patients. Laboratory results are typically reported and sent directly to the physician. The physician reviews and evaluates the data, and informs the patient of the status of the results. Patients need to know and understand lipid profiles and their meaning In this way each patient can talk and dialogue with the physician.

Lipid Profile Reports – Total Cholesterol, LDL, HDL, Triglycerides Data

The typical lipid panel will be a profile of your lipids and includes values for:

1.    total cholesterol

2.    LDL, low density lipid cholesterol

3.    triglycerides

4.    HDL, high density lipid cholesterol

All four components are part of the lipid profile. HDL is considered "good cholesterol." LDL and triglycerides are considered "bad cholesterol" whenever the latter two values are above normal values. The patient should check the lipid panel against the standard norms listed on the lab report, and those of American Heart Association listed below.

Lipid Profile Lab Report Normal Cholesterol, Lipoprotein and Triglyceride Values

Lipid data reports, gathered over many years from many laboratories and medical studies, have been standardized to obtain "normal values" for human lipids. Once these normal values are known, then the patient's reported values can be determined with clarity. Following are normal, adult lipid values, and a guide to interpretation of symbols and meaning.

Note that the two symbols used for Lipid Panels are read as follows: "<" means less than; ">" means, greater than. The American Heart Association's (AHA) minimal desirable values for total cholesterol, LDL, HDL and triglycerides are:

  • total cholesterol: <200 mg/dL.
  • low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol ("bad" cholesterol): <100 mg/dL.
  • triglycerides: <150 mg/dL.
  • high density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol ("good" cholesterol): 40 mg/dL or >.

Lipid Profiles, Reading and Understanding Lipid Reports

The following steps are useful to read and interpret in a lipid lab report.

1.    Review the lipid panel data in the entire lab report.

2.    Check and find value for total cholesterol. Compare that value with AHA's minimal desirable values for total cholesterol. A desirable value reads under 200 mg per dL (deciliter =100 ml) for total cholesterol.

3.    Repeat the review process for LDL, triglycerides, and HDL.

4.    LDL values less than 100 mg/dL are good, and values above this are considered elevated.

5.    Triglycerides less than 150 mg/dL are good, higher values also elevate concerns.

6.    Check the HDL value, if above 40, this is acceptable. The higher the value the better. HDL values below 40 are not desirable. Well-conditioned healthy athletes and adults run in the 50s to 60s HDL numbers.

Cholesterol Interpretation – Normal and Abnormal, Summary and Concluding Thoughts

What are the consequences and significance of having these lipid data, and how do they contribute to better personal healthcare?

  • If all the personal lipid values are normal, that is considered healthy and good.
  • Abnormal lipid profiles are alerts, signals or warnings of increased potential for damage to the body and overall health. These abnormal lipid profile reports should be heeded and attended to at the earliest convenience. Bad lipid profiles can lead to diseased arteries, poor circulation, and eventual heart problems. For example, the triglycerides alone may be very high: 300 mg/dL (desired <150). Or, the LDL values may be too high 190 mg/dL (desired <100). The total cholesterol is considered high at 240 or > mg/dL. The HDL would be below normal at 35 mg/dL, even if all the other values are in line. Improvement of low HDL values is important.
  • If some of the values, other than HDL, are higher than the normal range, then specific remedial measures are in order including specific diet changes, omega-3 supplements, medication and exercise programs.

Lipid profiles should always be evaluated and discussed with a qualified physician. This discussion is very important. The lipid profile is a snapshot of one moment of a body's metabolism. The results of that picture often suggest what corrective actions need be taken for any abnormalities. Changes in diet, exercise regimens and specific medications may well be the new road to better health for a lifetime.

Useful Reference Sources:

Argatston, A. 2007. The South Beach Heart Program. Rodale, Inc., New York, N.Y.

Castelli, W. P. and G. C. Griffen. 1997. Good Fat Bad Fat. Fisher Books. Tucson, Arizona.