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NMR Lipoprofile For A Healthy Heart And Arteries (November 22, 2011)

Back 50 years ago, doctors thought if a person’s cholesterol number was low, they were healthy. As more studies were conducted through the years, it was found there was good and bad cholesterol. Now we know cholesterol is not bad, it is the particle numbers that truly show whether the person’s heart and arteries are healthy.

NMR Lipoprofile Test Description

NMR Lipoprofile is a blood test that determines the total cholesterol count, HDL and LDL levels and the Triglycerides count (similar to a Lipid Profile); however it also produces a measurement of LDL particle numbers and the size of those LDL particles. It also determines the direct measurement of HDL and VLDL subclasses. This information helps facilitate individualized treatment plans depending on the results of this test.

Why Would You Need an NMR Lipoprofile

A patient has a need for a additional information on their cholesterol profile possibly due to previous blood tests indicating high cholesterol. This may also be due to a patient already having current heart disease, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, or people who smoke, have a family history of heart disease, high blood pressure, or are already on cholesterol-lowering medications. Even if they have normal cholesterol, it is important that these people in a high risk category have the NMR Lipoprofile test to provide the more precise information.

How The Blood Test Works

The development of nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy produced certain specific magnetic properties of lipoproteins. These lipoproteins are considered the vehicles which carry lipids through the bloodstream. During a complex cascade of events, the lipoproteins enter the walls of the arteries and begin to split. The result of this is a buildup of plaque along the wall that restricts the flow of blood through the artery. This is called atherosclerosis and cardiovascular disease. The important and available information to the doctor now from this test is the number of low density lipoprotein particles traveling through the bloodstream and entering the walls of the arteries. This aids the doctor in making a decision in the diagnosis and management of the patient’s cardiovascular disease risk. 

The quantifying of lipoproteins was time-consuming and difficult during the 1990's. A breakthrough of this process was enabled using the NMR technology. The time needed to obtain quantitative results was shortened from hours or days to a matter of minutes. This made the analysis of lipoprotein accurate, efficient and affordable for most people in need of this heart and cholesterol testing.

Understanding The Blood Test Results

Cholesterol is carried in containers known as low density lipoprotein (LDL) particles. The amount inside each particle varies among the population and also particle to particle in one person's body. This is the reason that a cholesterol number may not accurately depict the LDL particle number in a person. There are three major classifications of lipoprotein particles: low density lipoproteins (LDL), high density lipoproteins (HDL) and very low density lipoproteins (VLDL). 

Lipoprotein particles consist of two parts; an outer shell and an inner core of cholesterol and triglyceride. Since cholesterol and triglyceride cannot flow through the blood, it uses the lipoprotein particles to flow through the arteries. It does not matter how much cholesterol is inside the particles; what does matter is how many particles are flowing through those arteries. If there are too many particles, it causes a jamming effect of them. They enter into the artery wall where they split and form a blockage. It is these blockages that become so dangerous and makes a person at such a high risk for a heart attack or stroke. 

The goal for someone with heart disease, diabetes or other high risk people is an optimum LDL particle number under 1,000. The goal for everyone else is 1,000-1,299 and is considered near of above optimum, 1,300-1,599 is borderline high, 1,600-2,000 is high and over 2,000 is very high. 

Once the number of LDL particles is known, it is now important to know their size, especially if there are a relatively high number of these lipoprotein particles. The goal is to have fewer numbers of LDL particles and have larger sizes of the particles. A higher HDL particle number is always good when determining heart health while LDL determines whether there are risk factors for coronary heart disease or atherosclerosis. There is still more to learn about the importance of the HDL particle numbers that is not known yet but is on the horizon. The VLDL particles carry the triglycerides.

 If there are too many VLDL particles or especially large VLDL present, they interact with the LDL and HDL particles, causing them to become cholesterol-depleted and /or smaller. They can then be excreted out through the kidneys and renally. This causes the need for a higher number of particles to carry a certain level of LDL-C, which is not good. 

It should be understood that this represents how to read the results of the NMR Profile. A physician should do the final interpretation of these results in order to determine if a statin drug should be administered along with diet and exercise to have heart healthy numbers.

The NMR Lipoprofile blood test is available at Health Testing Centers. The test requires a ten-hour fasting period.