So you got your cholesterol tested, and maybe your doctor told you your cholesterol is too high. You have no idea how to interpret blood test results, so you’re at the mercy of your doctor’s interpretation. As a consequence, you may be stressed on how you need to change your diet or lifestyle, when in reality there may be no issue here at all. In this post, we'll shed some light on what those blood test numbers might mean to you.
Many doctors are unfortunately going off of some outdated conventional cholesterol guidelines that should hopefully be updated soon. The discussion below is our understanding of what the research indicates, but please just note: Luc and I are not professional medical practitioners, and we are simply providing our interpretation based on our research and understanding of the potential mechanisms at play.
We’ve had several PLATFORMERS report very healthy high HDL numbers in the 55-65 mg/dL range. Let’s just start by mentioning if you have high HDL, this is a good thing! As far as I know, most everyone including conventional medical practitioners, sees HDL as the "good cholesterol." By most standards, HDL over 55 mg/dL is in the "protective" range for heart disease. Note that even some blood test reports state that HDL over 55-59 mg/dL is considered a negative risk factor for heart disease. This means it protects against heart disease! HDL is said to clear oxidative cholesterol out of your blood stream, so it's a very good thing this number is this high! Despite this, some doctors tend to focus on total cholesterol, which is adding HDL + all LDL (including VLDL)... so clearly a high HDL is going to mean a high total cholesterol, and yet high HDL is good!
Generally, you should be happy to see lower numbers on this one. Triglycerides are essentially fat circulating in your blood stream. Higher triglycerides tend to reflect more calories coming in (usually from carbs) than are being burned by your body, since your liver is sending them through your blood to be stored in your fat tissue for later. Doctors typically like to see this number below 150 mg/dL. People on a high-quality fat, low carbohydrate diet will typically have numbers quite a bit lower. But we'll expect this number to go even lower when you're on THE PLATFORM! :)
Calculated LDL and VLDL:
First off, what is LDL? LDL contains cholesterol, yes, but it also carries triglycerides, fat-soluble vitamins, and antioxidants. This means LDL is critical for delivering nutrients and fighting inflammation. Now, one of the important nuances to note is that your LDL numbers have typically been calculated, not measured. This means a few things:
The number can be unreliable particularly for higher HDL numbers.
The lab has estimated the concentration from a formula and has no information about particle number which is a far better predictor for heart disease and other risks.
There is little indication of distribution of size or density.
Long story short, the number provided to you is analogous to the number of people traveling in each car on the road rather than the number of cars on the road. When it comes to statistics, the likelihood of a car accident has much more to do with the number of cars traveling around and little to nothing to do with the number of people in the car. In addition, a lower triglyceride number implies your LDL is light and fluffy and likely carrying generally healthy nutrients rather than lots of LDL particles.
One more item to note: your total cholesterol to HDL ratio is thought to be representative of lower inflammation when it’s on the order of or lower than 2:1. You also want to see VLDL (very low density protein) on the low end, as these particular lipoproteins tend to be more rich in triglycerides. After your body breaks down these triglycerides, what’s left tends to be more small dense LDL, which is some of the most prone to oxidation (aka plaque and the real problem for CHD, stroke, etc.).
Now if you’re still concerned, you can gain better insight by getting tested for actual LDL particle number, apolipoprotein B, lipoprotein(a), and a few others (let us expand on this a little later). But if I were you, I’d just focus on getting high-quality whole foods in my diet and high-intensity exercise into my life, similar to that prescribed on THE PLATFORM!
Hope that cleared some items up. Let us know if you have any questions in the comments or would like to discuss further!