Lipoproteins

Alternate Names

  • High-Density Lipoproteins (HDL, HDL-C)
  • Low-Density Lipoproteins (LDL, LDL-C)
  • Very-Low-Density Lipoproteins (VLDL)

Lipoproteins are proteins found in the blood necessary for the breakdown, transport, use, and removal of fats within the body. The amount of lipoproteins the body makes is inherited, but levels are also affected by medications or diet. Lipoprotein levels are a good predictor of the risk for the development of heart disease, especially when HDL (high-density lipoprotein) is compared to the amount of total cholesterol in the blood. Total cholesterol should be three times higher than the HDL value, which indicates a low risk for the development of heart disease.

HDL (good cholesterol) is produced by the liver and is necessary for the removal of cholesterol from the tissues. Cholesterol from the tissues is taken to the liver, which breaks it down; the cholesterol is then excreted by the kidneys. Low HDL blood levels are associated with an increased risk for the development of heart disease, the buildup of cholesterol in blood vessels, and stroke. High HDL blood levels can be inherited, or the result of too much exercise; low HDL blood levels can also be inherited, or the result of kidney disease, liver disease, or metabolic syndrome.

LDL (low-density lipoprotein), or bad cholesterol, also transport cholesterol, but LDLs allow for the cholesterol to build up on the lining of blood vessels (atherosclerosis), which increases the risk for the development of stroke and heart attack.

VLDL (very low-density lipoprotein) transports small amounts of cholesterol, but is mainly necessary for the transport of triglycerides (a form of fat), and may be converted in the muscles into LDLs. High VLDL blood levels are also an indicator for an increased risk for the development of heart disease.

High lipoprotein blood levels can be inherited, or due to kidney or liver disease, chronic alcohol abuse, cancer, or Cushing's syndrome; low lipoprotein blood levels can be inherited, or due to low blood protein levels as a result of severe acute (current) illness, or an over-active thyroid gland.

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