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The page below is a sample from the LabCE course Emerging Cardiovascular Risk Markers. Access the complete course and earn ASCLS P.A.C.E.-approved continuing education credits by subscribing online.

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Size and Number

Earlier we mentioned the notion of measuring lipoprotein particle number rather than just measuring lipoprotein cholesterol content. There are now methods that can measure the size and number of each lipoprotein class. Why is size important? Although lipoproteins of a particular class are generally within a given size range, there are many biochemical processes that interact with lipoproteins to alter their size, density, and lipid composition. When low-density lipoprotein (LDL) becomes smaller and denser, it is more likely to interact with the arterial wall, leading to deposition of cholesterol and initiating or worsening atherosclerosis.

Research has shown that high numbers of smaller, denser LDL are more atherogenic than larger, lighter LDL particles. Small, dense LDL particles are associated with more than a three-fold increase in the risk of coronary heart disease.