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What do these blood tests mean? - The Lipid Panel

Updated: Sep 6, 2023


Hey, everybody happy functional medicine Friday, Dr. Julie McLaughlin here. What we're going to start to do in this little series of our functional medicine practice is we're going to talk about a different little group of blood tests as we go through. So today we're going to talk about what they mean and what the tests are.

The first test we're going to talk about is the lipid panel. So there are six preventable and reversible chronic disease that we really look at with all these panels. So today we're going to be looking at the heart disease panel, and then as we go along each week, we'll pick up another panel and we'll talk about that.

We'll take a little bit of a dive into this so you can understand what those markers are. So in a class drawl panel or a lipid panel, these are the tests, the total cholesterol, the LDL, the HDL, and the triglycerides. So when we look at each one of those, we want to look at their ranges. Because you've been following me for a long time you know that we have different ranges. We have the lab ranges that are printed on the lab sheet and we have a functional medicine range. And when we have the functional medicine range, we want to look at you in a healthier standard. So for example, triglycerides on the labs say they want you to be less than 150 for you to be optimally healthy. I want it less than 115.

We're going to talk about both the lab ranges and the functional medicine ranges. So here we go on the lipid panel. So this test is 50 years old and we're going to be talking next week about the advanced lipid panel. That kind of goes along with this one, that's the newer updated version of this. This test is used to monitor the amount of plaque that is being laid down in your artery and the amount that is getting cleaned up.

High cholesterol and its ratios determine your cardiac risk. So the total cholesterol, we want to be below 200 and that's both for lab range and functional medicine range. Now here's the thing, I don't want you to freak out if just your total cholesterol is high, because it's a math problem. Your total cholesterol equals your HDL plus your LDL plus your VLDL. Literally, if you took out a calculator or wrote it on a piece of paper and you added those three numbers up, that would equal your total cholesterol.

So if any one of them is too high. Hopefully it's your HDL, your good cholesterol so it can bump your total up. This lipid panel blood test is always done fasting. And to get your optimal numbers, you want to fast for 12 hours, but remember to drink water so your not dehydrated.

Now on the LDLs I want your LDLs to be below a hundred. There are some labs that say below 140, but to be optimal, we want it below a hundred. So LDL is your bad cholesterol and it leaves the liver and it lays down plaque. Now your HDL is your happy, healthy, good cholesterol. And that's what cleans up the plaque. So for men, we want it to be optimally above 50. And for women above 60, the traditional lab range is around 40. Now on the triglycerides, that's a fat plus a sugar. Think of it like sticky gum, getting in your arteries. That's what the cholesterol sticks to. We want it below 115. And the lab say below 150. So I want you better than perfect on this healthy stuff.

Let's talk about these individual markers. Your total cholesterol is a waxy fatty, like substance. Think of like chicken fat, right? That's what it's like. It aids in the production of cell membranes, hormones and vitamin D and it comes in two sources. 80% of your cholesterol is produced by your body. Only 20% comes from your food. That's why it's so difficult to reduce your LDL, your bad cholesterol. So think of lousy loser, bad cholesterol is responsible for 70% of heart disease. It is a leading killer of men and women after the age of 45. So we really want to make sure we're not having too much LDL bad cholesterol.

Now HDL, healthy, happy cholesterol. It brings the cholesterol back to the liver. That's what helps clear out any plaque. Between the age of 49 and 82 it's the most potent risk factor for cardiovascular disease is if you have low HDL. So if you have low HDL, we know that's a very important risk factor, and we need to bring that HDL up.

Triglycerides, a fat plus a sugar, and it can also be elevated if you're drinking a lot of alcohol or if you're having a lot of sugar, as well as in heart disease. So elevated triglycerides cause obesity, heart disease, diabetes, hypothyroidism, kidney disease, liver disease. All of these conditions can elevate up your triglyceride levels.

So things that are 50 years old, none of us are talking on phones with cords and plugged into the wall anymore. That was a way long time ago. And a routine lipid panel is 50 years old. So next time we're going to talk about what we can do by combining this panel, which is very useful. We want to combine it with the advanced testing.

Remember the only solution for a lifestyle problem is a lifestyle solution. And we will take a look and make sure we're looking at those advanced markers next time, because what gets measured gets managed. If you haven't had your blood test done recently reach out and we'll be happy to help you.

As always, if you have questions, just let us know and we'll talk to you soon.

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