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Cholesterol Screening: The Hidden Danger!

September 2007
Cholesterol Screening: The Hidden Danger!

After my husband was recently diagnosed with coronary artery disease, his cardiologist recommended the "Berkeley Advanced CVD Profile" – an advanced cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk assessment. Offered by the Berkeley HeartLab in Alameda, Calif., the Profile includes proprietary testing for LDL (Low-density lipoprotein, otherwise known as "bad" cholesterol) and HDL (High-density lipoprotein, or the "good" cholesterol) subclasses that are far more informative than standard tests. According to this lab, "Surprisingly, about 80% of individuals who are destined to have heart attacks have the same blood cholesterol values as those who do not develop CVD."

It is possible to have a standard cholesterol screening with all your numbers in the target range, but still have an LDL particle number that increases your risk for cardiovascular disease. Standard cholesterol screening is limited as it does not provide detailed information about the small, dense LDL particles which more easily penetrate into blood vessels walls, thereby, increasing the risk for atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries).

As a demographic group, South Asians are particularly prone to such stealthy risks. Ashish Mateur, Executive Director of the South Asian Heart Center (SAHC) at the El Camino Hospital in Mountain View, California says that, "Standard screening tests do not address the high rate of premature heart attacks in South Asians. Tests such as the Berkeley should be considered for South Asians who in general have a higher incidence of heart disease."

Unlike routine cholesterol screening; advanced tests such as the Berkeley and the Vertical Auto Profile or VAP test (Atherotech, Birmingham, AL) provide a more accurate assessment of the underlying risk of cardiovascular disease by identifying the predominance of certain LDL particles and their size.

The mission of the SAHC is to provide a comprehensive, culturally- appropriate program incorporating education, advanced screening, lifestyle changes, and case-management. Its goal is two-fold. On the one hand, to change how healthcare providers screen and assess for heart disease with the local, national and global South Asian community. On the other, to change how insurance companies view advanced CVD testing (such as the Berkeley test) by getting them to accept coverage for these tests at a younger age for the South Asian population.

In my husband's case, the Berkeley test indicated a high level of the smaller dense (more harmful) artery clogging LDL particles while his general cholesterol screening had indicated "normal" LDL values. This proves that we should not breathe a sigh of relief if our cholesterol values are normal, especially if there is a family history of heart disease. Even though your "bad" cholesterol might be in the normal range, establish if you have a family history of heart disease, be proactive, and then with the help of your health care provider, find out if your level is really normal, or is there silent damage being done to your heart beyond what the numbers on paper indicate?


[Material from this article was obtained from the Berkeley HeartLab and the South Asian Heart Center���website with permission. For more information regarding the Berkeley test, please consult with your healthcare provider or visit For more information on the South Asian Heart Center and its services, please visit]

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