Blood lipid values provide information on the number of various lipids (fats) in the blood, such as cholesterol and triglycerides. Since fat in the blood is not soluble in water, it is bound to special transport proteins.
The complex of fat and protein is called a lipoprotein. The different values of fat in the blood can be determined with the help of analysis.
What are lipid levels in the blood?
The most important blood lipid levels include blood levels of triglycerides and cholesterol.
Triglycerides (neutral fats) belong to the group of dietary fats. They serve the body as an energy reserve and are stored in adipose tissue until used. Cholesterol, on the other hand, can be taken in through food and produced in the liver and intestine.
It is an important part of cell walls. The bile acids, vitamin D, and steroid hormones are also produced from the cholesterol.
Since fats (lipids) are insoluble in water, they must be transported in the watery blood in the form of lipoproteins. Lipoproteins consist of lipids and a water-soluble surface made of proteins.
A distinction is made between different lipoproteins depending on their composition and task:
- Chylomicrons: They transport lipids from food (such as triglycerides, cholesterol) from the intestine to the liver and adipose tissue.
- VLDL (very low-density lipoprotein): Carries triglycerides from the liver to other parts of the body.
- LDL (low-density lipoprotein): Mainly carries cholesterol from the liver to other cells in the body. When the concentration of blood is high, it is deposited on the walls of the vessels, causing or accelerating the development of arteriosclerosis.
- HDL (high-density lipoprotein): Carries excess cholesterol from the body’s cells back to the liver, where it can be broken down.
LDL cholesterol is considered “bad” because it promotes the development of arteriosclerosis. In contrast, “good” HDL cholesterol can protect against vascular calcification.
When do you determine the lipid levels in the blood?
Blood fat values are determined, among other things, if fat metabolism disorders are suspected or to monitor the success of fat-reducing therapy (for example, through diet or medication).
Measuring fat in the blood is particularly important if the doctor wants to assess the risk of hardening of the arteries (arteriosclerosis) in the patient.
Above all, an increase in LDL leads to reactions in the vessel walls, which ultimately lead to arteriosclerotic deposits (plaques) on the inner walls of the vessels.
Guide values for blood lipid values
So that the doctor can determine the lipid values in the blood, take blood samples. Since fat enters the blood through food intake, blood must be taken on an empty stomach.
It is ideal if you have not eaten for eight to twelve hours before and have drunk at most water or unsweetened tea.
When are blood lipid levels too low?
Blood lipids are low only in rare cases. Causes include malnutrition and hyperthyroidism. Medications to lower cholesterol, acute hepatitis, cirrhosis of the liver, septic shock, and inflammatory bowel diseases can also lower blood lipid levels.
When are blood lipid levels too high?
If the lipid levels in the blood are too high, this is called hyperlipidemia. The cause may be a fat metabolism disorder.
In most cases, an unhealthy lifestyle ensures that triglycerides, VLDL, and LDL are too high and HDL is lowered. It’s not uncommon for lack of exercise, a high-sugar diet, and obesity to play a role here.
Chronic diseases like diabetes mellitus, Cushing’s disease, gout, and kidney dysfunction can also lead to high levels of lipids in the blood. Values also increase during pregnancy but normalize after delivery.
Several medications such as corticosteroids also increase fat in the blood.
What to do if blood lipid levels change?
Since blood lipid levels are rarely low enough to cause disease values, therapy is limited to regular measurements and additional monitoring of the drug.
In contrast, elevated levels of lipids in the blood pose a serious health risk.
The arteriosclerosis that arises, as a result, is an important risk factor for heart attack, circulatory disorders in the brain (stroke), in the legs (peripheral arterial occlusive disease), in the abdomen, and in other regions of the body.
The values must be strictly adjusted, especially in patients with previous diseases such as diabetes mellitus or obesity.
If these basic measures don’t work, your doctor will prescribe medications such as statins or cholesterol absorption inhibitors. These reduce excessively high levels of lipids in the blood.