Easy Introduction To Cholesterol with Dr. Prentice￼
ByMackenzie Prentice, DNP, APNP •September 12, 2022
Cholesterol is a lipid, which is another name for fat. Cholesterol, or fat, is an essential nutrient. Our liver can make cholesterol and we can also get it from certain food sources. Cholesterol is important for the following reasons:
- Every cell in the body needs cholesterol to function properly.
- The liver uses cholesterol to create bile, which helps us digest our food.
- Cholesterol is needed to make certain hormones.
- In order to create Vitamin D in the body, both sunlight and cholesterol are needed.
Why is it that cholesterol is often considered as “bad”?
In order for cholesterol to travel throughout the bloodstream, it needs to be packaged in something called a lipoprotein. These lipoprotein particles come in various numbers and sizes. The amount and size of these particles in the body influence your risk of heart disease.
How do you test for lipoprotein particle sizes?
You have most likely had lab test called a Lipid Profile, run by your primary care provider. This test can be a helpful starting point to understand the different cholesterol amount, but it doesn’t provide detail on how that cholesterol is packaged; in other words, the SIZE of the cholesterol particles.
To determine the size of these particles, an additional test is needed called the NMR lipid Profile. This comprehensive test gives us both the number and size, which gives us a better understanding of your risk for heart disease. For example, let’s take a look at LDL cholesterol and the two different sizes:
Optimal LDL size: Pattern A
- LDL is wrapped in a LARGE package.
- It is also helpful to compare this to a LARGE, bouncy beach ball that can do less damage to our artery walls when bouncing around.
Sub-optimal LDL size: Pattern B
- This LDL is wrapped in a SMALL package.
- It is also helpful to compare this to a golf ball, which can cause damage when bouncing off the artery walls.
Who should consider having the NMR lipid Profile test?
The following examples of reasons to ask your practitioner for
- If you have been told you have high cholesterol
- If you or a family member has ever had a stroke or heart attack
- If you are a smoker
- If you are overweight
- If you eat mostly processed food
- If you have high blood pressure or diabetes
- If you have increased stress in your life
- If you would like to optimize your health
I encourage you to advocate for yourself and ask for the NMR lipid profile to truly assess your risk for heart disease. Be Well!
Editor’s Note: The information in this article is intended for your educational use only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health practitioners with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition and before undertaking any diet, supplement, fitness, or other health program.