LDL cholesterol: definition, analysis, results

LDL cholesterol: definition, analysis, results

The LDL cholesterol level in the analysis is a parameter measured during a lipid test. Responsible for transporting cholesterol within the body, LDL cholesterol is a lipoprotein called “bad cholesterol” because its excess is a cardiovascular risk factor.

High or too low LDL cholesterol? We help you interpret the results and understand their meanings.

What is LDL cholesterol?

LDL cholesterol, sometimes written LDL-cholesterol, is a low-density lipoprotein that allows the transport of cholesterol within the body.

Although it has been heavily criticized in recent years, cholesterol is an essential nutrient for the proper functioning of the human body.

This lipid participates in the structure of cell membranes, the synthesis of many molecules, and the production of bile salts necessary for the digestion of lipids. By participating in the distribution of cholesterol in the various tissues, LDL cholesterol plays an important role in the body.

Why is it called “bad cholesterol”?

If LDL cholesterol is one of the transporters of cholesterol in the body, there are others including HDL cholesterol.

HDL cholesterol

The latter is able to capture excess cholesterol in the body and then transport it to the liver for elimination. The transport function of HDL cholesterol is all the more important as an excess of cholesterol in the blood is a cardiovascular risk factor.

It is for this reason that HDL cholesterol is referred to as “good cholesterol” while LDL cholesterol is considered “bad cholesterol”.

What is the normal level of LDL cholesterol?

LDL cholesterol is generally considered normal when it is between 0.9 and 1.6 g/L in adults.

However, these reference values may vary depending on the medical analysis laboratories and many parameters including sex, age, and medical history. For more information, you should ask your doctor for advice.

How does the analysis work?

The determination of LDL cholesterol is carried out by a medical analysis laboratory. It requires a blood test, which is usually performed at the elbow crease.

The blood sample is then used to make a lipid test. The latter consists of measuring blood levels of different lipids including:

  • LDL cholesterol;
  • HDL cholesterol;
  • triglycerides.

What is the purpose of the analysis?

The level of LDL cholesterol in the blood is one of the values measured to analyze the total cholesterol level within the body.

The interpretation of LDL cholesterol levels is used to prevent, diagnose and monitor two dyslipidemias:

  • hypocholesterolemia, which corresponds to cholesterol deficiency;
  • Hypercholesterolemia refers to excess cholesterol.

What are the factors of variation?

The LDL cholesterol level is a value that varies according to lipid intake. It is for this reason that the blood test should be performed on an empty stomach, preferably for at least 12 hours.

It is also recommended not to drink alcohol 48 hours before the lipid test.

How to interpret the results?

The interpretation of LDL cholesterol levels contributes to cholesterol analysis. Nevertheless, this result must be studied in relation to the other values obtained during a lipid assessment.

Cholesterol levels are generally considered normal when:

  • total cholesterol is less than 2 g/L;
  • LDL cholesterol is less than 1.6 g/L;
  • HDL cholesterol is greater than 0.4 g/L;
  • the triglyceride level is less than 1.5 g/L.

These reference values are indicative. They may vary depending on different parameters including gender, age, and medical history. It is advisable to approach your doctor to interpret the results of a lipid test.

Low LDL cholesterol

A low LDL cholesterol level, less than 0.9 g/L, can be a sign of hypocholesterolemia, i.e. cholesterol deficiency. However, this phenomenon is rare.

It can be related to:

  • a genetic abnormality;
  • undernutrition;
  • cholesterol malabsorption
  • a condition such as cancer;
  • a depressive state.

High LDL cholesterol

Too high LDL cholesterol, above 1.6 g/L, should be interpreted as a warning signal. This is a sign of hypercholesterolemia, in other words, excess cholesterol in the blood.

The body can no longer regulate total cholesterol levels, which results in an accumulation of lipids in the arteries. This progressive deposition of fat can lead to the formation of atheromatous plaque, the health repercussions of which can be serious.

Blood circulation is disrupted, which increases the risk of high blood pressure. Rupture of atheromatous plaque can also cause myocardial infarction, stroke, or peripheral arteritis obliterans (PAD).

Image Credit: Image by prostooleh on Freepik

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