Excess cholesterol in the blood can be deposited on the walls of blood vessels leading to atherosclerosis & increased risk of heart disease & stroke.
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HDL Cholesterol, or ‘Good Cholesterol’ is often measured in conjunction with LDL ("Bad Cholesterol") and Total Cholesterol as part of a lipid panel to screen for cardiovascular risk factors and monitor cholesterol reducing therapy.
Other assays which may be of interest when measuring cholesterol are :
- Non-Esterified Fatty Acids
- Apolipoprotein A1
- Apolipoprotein B
- Lipoprotein a Lp(a)
Elevated levels of homocysteine are found in individuals with homocystinuria, a rare genetic disorder of the enzymes involved in the metabolism of homocysteine. Patients with homocystinuria exhibit mental retardation, early arteriosclerosis and arterial and venous thromboembolism. Epidemiology has suggested an association between elevated homocysteine levels and cardiovascular disease.
Cholesterol is an essential component of cell membranes and required for the synthesis of hormones for development, growth and reproduction. It is also essential for the formation of bile acids that are needed to absorb nutrients from food. Cholesterol is obtained from dietary sources and is also produced by the liver.
For transportation around the body cholesterol is incorporated into lipoprotein complexes – containing lipids and apolipoproteins.
There are four classes of lipoprotein :
- very low density lipoprotein (VLDL)
- low density lipoprotein (LDL)
- high density lipoprotein (HDL)
The smallest lipoproteins are chylomicrons which transport triglycerides from the intestines to the liver, skeletal muscle and adipose tissue. VLDL transport triacylglycerol, which is synthesised in the liver, to adipose tissue. Low Density Lipoprotein (LDL) transports cholesterol from the liver around the body where it is deposited in tissues and organs whilst High Density Lipoprotein (HDL) is responsible for uptake and disposal of cholesterol.