What are blood lipids?
"Blood Lipids" is the term used for all the fatty substances found in the blood, including cholesterol and triglycerides. Some people have too much cholesterol (fat) in their blood and this increases their chances of having a heart attack.
What is cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a fatty substance which is mainly made in the body when the liver breaks down saturated fats in food. This cholesterol then passes into the blood.
Cholesterol travels in the bloodstream in two forms:
What are triglycerides?
Triglycerides are another type of fat found in the blood which mainly come from food. After you eat, fats in your food are broken down in the liver into triglycerides. The liver can also convert excess calories (e.g. from drinking too much alcohol, sugar drinks, or eating too much fatty foods or meat) into triglycerides. These fatty triglycerides are released into your blood and are then transported through your body and used as energy or stored as fat.
Why are blood lipids a risk factor for Coronary Heart Disease?
Having high levels of fat in you blood can lead to fatty deposits in the blood vessels in the body, including the coronary arteries (the blood vessels which supply the heart muscle with blood). This leads to the narrowing or hardening of the coronary arteries. There is more information in the 'what is coronary heart disease (CHD)' section.
The goal is therefore to aim to have:
How are blood lipids measured?
Blood lipids (cholesterol and triglycerides) are measured by a simple blood test. Your nurse or Doctor will take a sample of your blood. If you are having your triglyceride levels measured, you will be asked not to eat anything, and to drink only clear water, for about 12 hours before your blood is taken.
Blood lipids (cholesterol and triglycerides) are measured in units called millimols per litre of blood, usually shortened to 'mmol/l'. Your target is to have:
This may all seem quite confusing - but don't worry. If you have had a heart attack or if you have angina, your GP or Practice Nurse should check your blood lipid level every year. If your total cholesterol is over 5mmol/l then you should be on cholesterol-lowering medication - usually a statin (e.g. Simvastatin, Atrovastatin) if you have angina or have had a heart attack. If you are not on these medicines, ask your doctor or nurse about them.
There are many things that you can do to help lower the levels of fat in your blood: