Cholesterol is a lipid that, being insoluble in water, is transported in the bloodstream in ball-like lipoproteins made up of transport proteins and lipids. Blood total cholesterol (S-Kol) is the total concentration of all lipoproteins in the bloodstream measured in a single test. Total cholesterol is primarily made up of HDL and LDL cholesterol, which are also commonly known as “good” and “bad” cholesterol, respectively.
When should cholesterol levels be measured?
Obesity, hypertension, diabetes, low level of physical exercise, smoking, and genetic factors increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases. Total cholesterol is used in assessing the risk of diseases. The test is often included in health check-ups. Other cholesterol levels, namely HDL cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and triglycerides, are also usually measured at the same time. Triglyceride is another form of fat that is found in the bloodstream. In addition to cholesterol, the more detailed breakdown of the different values provides important information about lipids in the blood.
A healthy adult should have their cholesterol tested once every 3–5 years at the minimum. In the case of an elevated level or an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases, the test should be taken more frequently.
If it is decided to treat elevated cholesterol with medicines, the cholesterol levels are usually checked 1–2 months after starting the medication. Once a suitable therapy has been found, the measurement is taken approximately once a year.
What does a cholesterol test measure?
The test measures the total cholesterol concentration in the blood. Underlying the test result is a calculation formula with HDL and LDL values as the key components.
Even though negative mental images are readily associated with cholesterol, it is important to the body. Cholesterol is needed in the production of cells and fluids secreted from the gallbladder. Cholesterol is also a precursor of certain hormones and vitamin D, for example. The body produces the majority of cholesterol in the liver and other tissues, meaning that only part of it comes from food.
An elevated cholesterol level, however, increases the risk of atherosclerosis, or buildup of fat on the artery walls in particular. Cholesterol builds up on the artery walls and makes the arteries more constricted. This leads to a decrease in the volume of flowing blood.
The coronary arteries are the most susceptible to becoming constricted, which can lead to fatigue-related chest pain (angina). In the worst case, the condition leads to a myocardial infarction. Atherosclerosis can also affect the circulation of blood in the brain, even causing a stroke. The disease also changes blood circulation in the legs, leading to a shortage of blood and oxygen in the tissues, with intermittent claudication as one of the first symptoms.
How to interpret the S-Kol test result?
Recommended target value in adults <5.0 mmol/l
With regard to cholesterol, target values are used instead of regular reference values. This is because Finns have quite high cholesterol levels on average.
Cholesterol levels can vary, and therefore elevated levels should be confirmed with a repeat measurement. 1–2 of these should be done within the next couple of weeks after the first test.
Cholesterol levels of over 5 are known as dyslipidaemia (abnormal amount of lipids in the blood). It can be classified as follows:
- Mild condition: Cholesterol level is 5.0–6.5 mmol/l
- Moderate condition: Cholesterol level is 6.6–7.9 mmol/l
- Severe condition: Cholesterol level is 8.0–9.9 mmol/l
- Very severe condition: over 10 mmol/l
If abnormal values are observed in the tests, you should consult a physician.
What can cause elevated levels in the S-Kol?
- Diet plays a major role in the formation of cholesterol. Heavy use of hard animal fats, in particular, increases the level of cholesterol.
- It can also be caused by hereditary susceptibility or a disease known as familial hypercholesterolemia.
- Certain drugs have the effect of increasing cholesterol. These include cortisone, certain antihypertensive drugs (beta blockers and thiazi diuretics), and contraceptive pills.
- Diabetes, excess weight, menopause, pregnancy, hypothyroidism, and diseases of the kidneys and liver can also increase the level of cholesterol in the blood.
What can cause decreased levels in the S-Kol?
Sometimes, certain diseases can lower the cholesterol level. These include severe hyperthyroidism, liver cirrhosis, and malabsorption disorders.
The most typical additional S-Kol tests:
- Comprehensive picture of lipid values (2245 fS-Lipids)
- LDL cholesterol reflects the risk of cardiovascular diseases (2099 fS-Kol-LDL)
- Low HDL cholesterol increases the risk of developing a cardiovascular disease (2097 fS-Kol-HDL)
- Triglycerides serve as an energy reserve (2770 fS-Trigly)
In addition, the Hertta test (link) can be used to foresee coronary artery disease, risk of death for cardiac reasons, and risk of diabetes.
Terveyskirjasto health library: Kolesteroli (fP-Kol)
SYNLAB test list: Cholesterol (2095 fS-Kol, 4515 fP-Kol)
Fasting is not required
This examination does not require fasting