Testing for cholesterol levels in the blood has become a common method of preventing future heart health issues. HDL cholesterol and LDL cholesterol, along with triglycerides and total cholesterol levels, have been common blood tests ordered by doctors for more than a generation. One of the newer tests, the VLDL blood test, tests for what is known as the “very low density lipoprotein.” VLDL contains the highest numbers of triglycerides and is the most likely cholesterol to begin building up on arterial walls.
The VLDL blood test may be ordered to determine a person’s overall risk of coronary heart disease or atherosclerosis. It may also be ordered by a treating doctor to see how effective a treatment plan may be. There is no direct method of testing VLDL with a specific test, however, so most laboratories will report results by calculating this result from your overall triglyceride levels.
VLDL is generally about 20% of your total triglycerides.
When Should I Have My Cholesterol Checked?
Most medical providers recommend that patients have their cholesterol levels checked based on some combination of age and health factors. Some organizations recommend that everyone between the ages of 20-79 have their cholesterol levels checked every 4-6 years to have their risk factors evaluated. If patients have risk factors for heart disease, cholesterol testing is recommended as early as the age of 17.
In the United States, the Preventative Services Task Force recommends cholesterol testing for men who are the age of 35 or older or men and women 20 or older who have risk factors for heart disease. Public cholesterol tests are available, but these may not contain VLDL results that your treating doctor may want.
What Do My VLDL Blood Test Results Mean?
Your VLDL blood test results can be low, normal, or abnormal. Low VLDL results are below 2 mg/dL and generally aren’t considered to be a factor in the development of coronary heart disease.
Normal VLDL blood test results are in the 2-30 mg/dL range for most patients. These values might change slightly based on your medical profile or the standards of the laboratory that is performing the cholesterol testing.
Abnormal or high VLDL results are above 30 mg/dL. This generally indicates that a patient is at a higher risk for heart disease, stroke, and atherosclerosis. It does not indicate that these health conditions are currently present or that they will happen. Some people have naturally high levels of VLDL and never develop heart disease signs or symptoms.
How To Treat High VLDL Levels
If you have low or normal VLDL results and low or normal LDL results, then no treatment may be necessary. This can only be determined by your treating doctor.
If your results are high, there are numerous treatment options that are available. The first place a treatment plan will examine is personal lifestyle choices. VLDL requires changes to a person’s eating habits so that saturated fats can be eliminated from the diet as much as possible. Soluble fibers are also recommended since they can help to lower cholesterol. Additional exercise may also be recommended.
If diet and exercise changes are not enough on their own, then some patients may be prescribed certain medications that change how the body produces cholesterol in the first place. The most common drugs are statins, but a new class of drugs is given to people as a shot and it works by blocking a protein that interferes with how the liver interacts with VLDL.
Anything that raises your risks of experiencing coronary heart disease will also be evaluated. Smoking, drinking, diabetes, hypertension, and obesity are all additional risk factors which may need to be addressed. It is important to pay attention to your VLDL and have it treated, but the other health issues which led to high cholesterol levels must also be addressed.
Only your doctor can decide which treatment options are right for your high VLDL levels. You can make certain healthy lifestyle choices right now to begin controlling cholesterol levels. Increase the amount of aerobic exercise you get throughout the week. Eat food that have higher levels of soluble fibers. If you’re a smoker, then stop.
If you haven’t had your cholesterol levels tested in some time or you may have never had them tested and you’re over the age of 35, then you may wish to have the VLDL blood test and other cholesterol testing ordered for you just so you can understand what your future risks for coronary heart disease may be for the next decade.
If you have more questions about your cholesterol levels, be sure to schedule an appointment with your doctor.