A new LDL-C testing standard for cardiac risk assessment offering increased accuracy and convenience

The Martin-Hopkins Calculation for LDL cholesterol (LDL-C) gives doctors more accurate information with which to manage heart health, and fasting is not required. Quest Diagnostics is the first U.S. diagnostic laboratory to measure all LDL-C with this new assessment method.

What is LDL cholesterol?

LDL, or low-density lipoprotein, cholesterol is commonly referred to as “bad” cholesterol. That’s because these “fat” proteins that carry cholesterol through your bloodstream tend to deposit cholesterol, a waxy, fatty substance, in blood vessel walls. Buildup of these deposits can block the flow of blood to important organs and tissues which can lead to a heart attack or stroke. HDL is called the “good” cholesterol and can sweep cholesterol out of blood vessels, keeping them clearer.

It’s important to keep your LDL-C level low. For most people, the recommended optimal level is less than 100 mg/dL1.

How is LDL-C measured?

There are two ways: estimated and direct measurement. Most LDL-C is estimated using a calculation developed in 1972 that is based on total cholesterol, HDL-cholesterol, and triglyceride levels. Direct measurement of LDL-C was developed in the 1990s and, although more accurate in measuring LDL-C, it has not been used as much in studies so there is less clinical information available. Also, direct LDL-C only reports LDL-C and not total cholesterol, HDL-cholesterol, or triglyceride levels, which are also useful for assessing heart health.

Recent research shows that LDL-C estimates using the 1970s calculation may be inaccurate

So why a new calculation?

The Martin-Hopkins Calculation allows for personalization of the LDL-C versus a one-size-fits all calculation like the old method that has been used since the 1970s.

The new Martin-Hopkins Calculation for LDL-C provides a more accurate estimation of LDL-C for these patients and doesn’t require fasting.

Quest Diagnostics is the first U. S.-based diagnostics laboratory to use the Martin-Hopkins Calculation in all LDL-C estimations. The method, developed by heart specialists at the Johns Hopkins Ciccarone Center for the Prevention of Heart Disease, is comparable to direct LDL-C.

The new calculation benefits patients several ways:

  • Improved accuracy in cases of very low levels of cholesterol and high triglycerides, or when the patient is already taking a cholesterol-lowering statin drug, for better management of heart health
  • More personalized estimation—calculation is adjustable based on other individual factors
  • The convenience of not having to fast prior to the blood draw
  • More convenient for patients for whom fasting could be problematic (e.g., diabetics, children, the elderly)

Do you know your numbers?

Knowing your total cholesterol, LDL-C, HDL-C, and triglyceride levels is vital to maintaining good heart health—and good health overall. If you don’t know yours, talk to your doctor about if this test is right for you.

Next Steps

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1 2002 NCEP ATP III guideline; 2013 ACC/AHA Lipid treatment guideline.

2 Martin SS, Blaha MJ, Elshazly MB, Brinton EA, Toth PP, McEvoy JW, et al. Friedewald-estimated versus directly measured low-density lipoprotein cholesterol and treatment implications. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2013;62: 732–9.