What Your Blood Can Tell You – Part 1

I feel like I’m in pretty good health. I exercise, I eat well, I don’t let things stress me out. But even if I appear to be healthy on the outside, it’s impossible to know for sure until I see what’s going on INSIDE my body. A few weeks ago I had some blood drawn and sent to a lab for analysis. Having this done as part of a routine health exam is pretty common. It’s probably even common to sit down with your primary care provider and go over the results when they come back from the lab. But are you getting the whole story? I’m going to use this blog post to go over my metabolic panel results and do my best to explain what it all means.


Let me start off by saying that I am not a doctor. I went to Engineering School, not Medical School. The thoughts that I will share on my results are based on my own research and may not be the same as what your doctor would recommend. Always consult with a trusted medical professional when it comes to your health.

So now that that’s out of the way, let’s start with the Lipid Panel. This tells you the overview of your cholesterol. This is a big one that people love to talk about…so let’s just jump right in!

Total Cholesterol – 166 mg/dL

The “recommended” range is under 200, so on the surface, my number appears to be good. But I would actually like for it to be higher. Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance produced primarily in the liver. It is used to repair cells, maintain proper hormone levels, vitamin D absorption from the sun, salt and water balance, digestion of fats. It is essential to joint health, hormone regulation, healthy cell membranes, fighting infections, etc. People tend to think of Cholesterol as something bad, but it’s essential to a healthy body. Having lower levels of cholesterol is actually putting your body at greater risk of health issues than not. In fact, those with the highest cholesterol levels actually live the longest. Cholesterol is in the body to help, not harm you.

The other part of the lipid panel that gets a lot of attention is the LDL-C.

LDL-Calculated – 83 mg/dL

According to the range listed on my results, anything under 100 is good. But if you notice, the “C” at the end of LDL-C stands for calculated. So your LDL cholesterol is determined using an equation. If you have a higher HDL and lower triglycerides, the calculation will be significantly skewed higher. There is a way to actually measure the number of LDL particales and to distinguish the size of LDL. This requires what is called a NMR Lipoprofile test. You want to see more of the large particles than the small particles. However, if your triglycerides are under 70 and your LDL is over 70, you can assume that most of your LDL is the good kind.

My Lipid Panel measured VLDL, which are the small, dense particles.

VLDV – 7 mg/dL

This is a very small amount of those little guys as anything below 40 is considered good.

So that leads me right into my Triglycerides number.

Triglycerides – 35 mg/dL

Anything under 150 is considered in the good range. From all of my research and listening/reading from people I trust; I think that lower triglycerides are a much more key marker than total cholesterol and LDL-C. Even though my results said that anything under 150 mg/dL is good, I’ve heard that under 70 is the optimal number to shoot for. The more unhealthy carbohydrates that you eat, the higher your triglycerides will typically be.

I’ve skipped over HDL because I wanted to talk about it in conjunction with Triglycerides.

HDL – 76 mg/dL

HDL is what people like to call the “good” kind of cholesterol. My report states that anything at or above 60 mg/dL is considered good. But is my score of 76 high enough? I wouldn’t mind it being over 100 mg/dL. I can accomplish this by changes to my diet. I don’t eat a lot of bread and pasta, but cutting back even more will increase my HDL. I eat a pretty good amount of saturated fat, but adding even more of these healthy fats will also boost my HDL. When you reduce your triglycerides by cutting the carbohydrates in your diet, while consuming more fat to increase your HDL, it’s a fantastic one-two punch. I firmly believe that higher HDL and lower triglycerides are much more indicative of good heart health than the total and LDL cholesterol numbers that most people focus on.

Another number that appeared on my results was CHOL/HDL ratio. This is just the total cholesterol number divided by the HDL number.

CHOL/HDL ratio – 2.0

Since you are told to keep total cholesterol low and HDL high, the lower this ratio, the better. I don’t feel like that total cholesterol number is very important, so this ratio doesn’t mean much to me. Even if it was over 3.0, I still wouldn’t be worried as long as my HDL was  in the 75-100 range.

I also think it’s important to look at my Triglycerides/HDL ratio even though it’s not listed on my results. For me, this number is 0.46. Anything under 1.0 is great!

If you want even more details on cholesterol, I would recommend reading Cholesterol Clarity by Jimmy Moore. This book goes into details on how to interpret your results and what you should and shouldn’t be concerned about.

Part 2 of my blood test results will look at my Comprehensive Metabolic Panel (CMP), which includes sodium, glucose and other minerals.

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