Cholesterol Levels For Men And Women
HDL levels differ for men and women
Women naturally have higher HDL cholesterol levels than men due to differences in the genes. Women should aim for an HDL cholesterol level above 1.2mmol/L while men should aim for above 1mmol/L.
Cholesterol levels can rise during pregnancy
During pregnancy, both cholesterol and triglyceride levels can significantly rise. We don’t recommend getting a cholesterol test during pregnancy because your results won’t be accurate. Our advice is to wait until at least 6-8 weeks after your baby is born or after you stop breastfeeding to get a cholesterol test. This means you don’t need to worry unnecessarily. Find out more about pregnancy and blood fats.
Cholesterol levels rise during the menopause
Women may also find their cholesterol levels rise during the menopause.
What Is The Pritikin Diet
The Pritikin diet significantly reduces saturated fatty acids trans fatty acids , and dietary cholesterol. It also increases dietary fiber in the form of natural, nutrient-rich foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and beans. This is the healthiest way to lower cholesterol, points out cardiologist Ronald Scheib, MD, physician and educator at the Pritikin Longevity Center in Miami, where the Pritikin Program has been taught since 1975.
Tactics To Reduce Cholesterol Quickly
For most of us, there’s really no need to pack our medicine cabinets with pills to reduce cholesterol levels. Natural, lifestyle-based strategies have proven extraordinarily effective in reducing cholesterol quickly and permanently.
Get the top 5 food and fitness tips recommended by the doctors, dietitians, exercise experts, and other faculty at the Pritikin Longevity Center. Pritikin has been helping people lower cholesterol levels since 1975.
Did you know that for every 10% drop in your cholesterol level, your heart attack risk drops by 20% to 30%? Theres more good news: Most of us can reduce cholesterol quickly, and without the need for medications. Simple lifestyle strategies can be very powerful.
Thats what several studies on thousands following the Pritikin Program of diet and exercise have found. Within three weeks, people were able to lower their cholesterol levels on average 23%, which translates into a 46% to 69% drop in heart attack risk.1
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Does Lowering Your Cholesterol Protect You From Ever Having A Heart Attack
Not necessarily. Since their arrival in the 1990s in Americans medicine cabinets nationwide, statin drugs have indeed proven very effective for reducing high LDL levels, and they do slow the progression of cholesterol-filled plaques. But sadly, the #1 cause of death in Americans taking statins to lower their elevated LDL levels is still heart attacks, states Kimberly Gomer, MS, RD, LDN, one of the many faculty who teach wellness education and nutrition workshops at the Pritikin Longevity Center.
What Do Your Cholesterol Results Mean
When you have a cholesterol test, it is really important that your healthcare professional explains the results to you to prevent unnecessary worry and confusion.
Its not just your total cholesterol thats important and your results will include different types of cholesterol. If you are only given your total cholesterol, ask for a break-down of the other numbers. Its possible to have a healthy total cholesterol number but an unhealthy balance of the different types of cholesterol.
As a minimum, you should be given your total cholesterol and HDL numbers, then you can work out your ratio of total cholesterol to HDL cholesterol .
You might also have your triglycerides tested, these are another type of blood fat which are linked to heart disease.
Ask for a print out of your results if you are not able to speak to your GP, nurse or pharmacist.
Your results should include:
- Total cholesterol
This is sometimes written as ‘serum cholesterol’ or ‘TC’ and refers to your overall level of cholesterol.
- Non-HDL cholesterol
- HDL cholesterol
- TC:HDL ratio
You might be given a TC:HDL ratio, which is the ratio of HDL compared to the total cholesterol. If not, you can work it out from your HDL and total cholesterol numbers. This should be as low as possible. Above 6 is considered high.
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Two Types Of Cholesterol
Your body makes two types of cholesterol. One type is bad cholesterol. The other is good cholesterol.
- Bad cholesterol is called low-density lipoprotein . Its unhealthy because if you have too much LDL in your body, it can build up in your arteries as fatty deposits.
- Good cholesterol is called high-density lipoprotein . Its healthy because it grabs on to excess cholesterol from your arteries and eliminates it. This keeps extra cholesterol from impacting your health.
Too much cholesterol can build up slowly in the arteries that go to your heart and your brain. This can then cause health problems later on. Therefore, you want to keep your LDL cholesterol numbers low and your good HDL cholesterol numbers high.
This can be tricky to do for some people. High cholesterol levels may run in your family, for example. But there are plenty of ways to naturally lower your cholesterol levels and improve your hearth health.
How Long For Cholesterol Count To Go Down After Eating Fatty Food
While a blood test to determine your cholesterol level can be done anytime, for the most accurate results it is best to fast. Different foods such as fatty foods have varying effects on cholesterol levels and if you test too close to eating, you may not get accurate results. If you are concerned about your cholesterol levels and preparing for a test, your physician will tell you what foods to avoid and how long you should fast for.
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How To Lower Cholesterol: Know Your Fats
The American Heart Association recommends that just 25% to 35% of your daily calories come from fats such as those found in fish, nuts, and vegetable oils. For healthy people, saturated fat should comprise no more than 7% of your total calories. On a 2,000 calorie-a-day diet, that’s about 140 calories worth of saturated fat. If you need to lower your LDL cholesterol, limit saturated fat to 5% to 6% of calories, or about 11 to 13 grams of saturated fat on a 2,000-calorie diet. Reduce trans fats to less than 1% of your total daily calories. This means avoiding fried foods and many junk foods.
Signs Symptoms And Complications
High bad LDL cholesterol usually does not cause symptoms, so most people do not know they have it until they are tested during a routine doctors visit. Very high levels may cause symptoms such as fatty bumps on your skin, called xanthomas, or grayish-white rings around the corneas in your eye, called corneal arcus. These mostly develop in people who have familial hypercholesterolemia.
Undiagnosed or untreated high blood cholesterol can lead to serious problems, such as heart attack and stroke.
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How To Lower Cholesterol: Smart Protein
To reduce cholesterol, limit red meat and eat more fish and lean poultry.
How to Prepare Healthy Proteins
- Trim all fat from meats, and remove all skin from poultry before cooking.
- Broil or bake, don’t fry foods.
- Drain fat from any meats before serving.
- Avoid processed meats such as hot dogs or cold cuts, even those labeled “reduced fat,” as many are still high in saturated fats and calories.
- Oily fish such as salmon or trout are high in omega-3 fatty acids, which can reduce triglyceride levels and improve HDL cholesterol levels.
- Soy proteins can also have a beneficial effect and help to reduce LDL cholesterol and triglycerides, while raising HDL cholesterol levels.
How To Lower Cholesterol
If you have high cholesterol, your doctor may recommend lifestyle changes, medications or both.
Here are some ways to manage your cholesterol.
Eat heart-healthy food
What you eat can make a big difference to your cholesterol levels.
Cut back on foods high in saturated fats like:
- oily fish.
Drink less alcohol
Drinking too much alcohol can increase your LDL cholesterol and triglycerides. So drinking less is a good way to lower your cholesterol.
The Ministry of Health recommends no more than 10 standard drinks per week for women and no more than 15 for men. One standard drink is equal to:
- a standard can of 4% beer
- a small glass of wine
- a small single shot of spirits
If you have high cholesterol or you’ve been diagnosed with a heart condition, you may need to drink less than this.
Smoking makes your LDL cholesterol stickier and reduces the amount of HDL cholesterol in your blood. It also damages the artery walls. This increases the build-up of plaque in your arteries and can cause risk of heart attack and stroke.
Quitting smoking is a great way to lower your cholesterol levels and reduce your risk of heart disease.
Sitting less and being more active are great ways to reduce high cholesterol.
This doesnt mean you have to join a gym or take up running it just means you need to move your body more throughout the day. Ideally you should do 30 minutes of activity a day.
You could try:
Read more about the benefits of exercise.
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Medical History And Physical Exam
Your doctor will ask about your eating habits, physical activity, family history, medicines you are taking, and risk factors for heart or blood vessel diseases.
During your physical exam, your doctor will check for signs of very high blood cholesterol, such as xanthomas, or signs of other health conditions that can cause high blood cholesterol.
How Much Does The Test Cost
You may find it helpful to talk with your doctor about the costs of cholesterol testing. The cost of cholesterol testing may depend on several factors:
- What type of cholesterol test is being taken
- Whether LDL is being calculated or measured
- Insurance coverage
- Where the test is being performed
Blood testing is typically covered by insurance when prescribed by a doctor, but you may be responsible for out-of-pocket costs on copays, deductibles, or technician fees.
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Substitute Healthy Oils In Place Of Butter And Margarine
Of course, its not always realistic to avoid fats when youre whipping up a tasty meal.
When you do need to add fat for cooking, baking or pan frying, use healthy oils instead of solid fats like butter, margarine, shortening and lard. Solid fats are high in saturated fats, but oils are high in unsaturated fats, which remember are better for you. The American Heart Association recommends using oils that have less than 4 grams of saturated fat per tablespoon .
Many times, its easy to swap a solid fat to a healthier one. Try using olive oil, sunflower oil or grapeseed oil in place of a solid fat.
For example, if youd rather use olive oil than butter, substitute ¾ the amount of butter in a recipe with olive oil. You might also bring out some new, surprising, subtle flavors, too.
Putting Together A Low Cholesterol Diet
When it comes to investing money, experts recommend creating a portfolio of diverse investments instead of putting all your eggs in one basket. The same holds true for eating your way to lower cholesterol. Adding several foods to lower cholesterol in different ways should work better than focusing on one or two.
A largely vegetarian “dietary portfolio of cholesterol-lowering foods” substantially lowers LDL, triglycerides, and blood pressure. The key dietary components are plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grains instead of highly refined ones, and protein mostly from plants. Add margarine enriched with plant sterols oats, barley, psyllium, okra, and eggplant, all rich in soluble fiber soy protein and whole almonds.
Of course, shifting to a cholesterol-lowering diet takes more attention than popping a daily statin. It means expanding the variety of foods you usually put in your shopping cart and getting used to new textures and flavors. But it’s a “natural” way to lower cholesterol, and it avoids the risk of muscle problems and other side effects that plague some people who take statins.
Just as important, a diet that is heavy on fruits, vegetables, beans, and nuts is good for the body in ways beyond lowering cholesterol. It keeps blood pressure in check. It helps arteries stay flexible and responsive. It’s good for bones and digestive health, for vision and mental health.
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Your Test Results: A Preview
Your test results will show your cholesterol levels in milligrams per deciliter of blood . Your total cholesterol and HDL cholesterol are among numerous factors your doctor can use to predict your lifetime or 10-year risk for a heart attack or stroke. Your doctor will also consider other risk factors, such as age, family history, smoking status, diabetes and high blood pressure.
Lipid profile or lipid panel is a blood test that will give you results for your HDL cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, triglycerides and total blood cholesterol.
How Can I Lower My Cholesterol
There are two main ways to lower your cholesterol:
- Heart-healthy lifestyle changes, which include:
- Heart-healthy eating. A heart-healthy eating plan limits the amount of saturated and trans fats that you eat. Examples include the Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes diet and the DASH Eating Plan.
- Weight Management. If you are overweight, losing weight can help lower your LDL cholesterol.
- Physical Activity. Everyone should get regular physical activity .
- Managing stress. Research has shown that chronic stress can sometimes raise your LDL cholesterol and lower your HDL cholesterol.
- Quitting smoking.Quitting smoking can raise your HDL cholesterol. Since HDL helps to remove LDL cholesterol from your arteries, having more HDL can help to lower your LDL cholesterol.
- Drug Treatment. If lifestyle changes alone do not lower your cholesterol enough, you may also need to take medicines. There are several types of cholesterol medicines available, including statins. The medicines work in different ways and can have different side effects. Talk to your health care provider about which one is right for you. While you are taking medicines to lower your cholesterol, you should continue with the lifestyle changes.
NIH: National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
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Why Is High Cholesterol Dangerous
Elevated cholesterol levels are one of the risk factors for heart disease, stroke, and peripheral artery disease. The mechanism involving cholesterol in all three diseases is the same plaque buildup within arteries decreases blood flow affecting the function of the cells and organs that these blood vessels supply.
- Atherosclerotic heart disease or narrowed coronary arteries in the heart can cause the symptoms of angina, when the heart muscle is not provided with enough oxygen to function.
- Decreased blood supply to the brain may be due to narrowed small arteries in the brain or because the larger carotid arteries in the neck may become blocked. This can result in a transient ischemic attack or stroke.
- Peripheral artery disease describes gradual narrowing of the arteries that supply the legs. During exercise, if the legs do not get enough blood supply, they can develop pain, called claudication.
- Other arteries in the body may also be affected by plaque buildup causing them to narrow, including the mesenteric arteries to the intestine and the renal arteries to the kidney.
You Can Begin Lowering Cholesterol Naturally Today
Sound like a lot to take on? Dont be intimidated. Bringing down your high cholesterol doesnt have to mean changing your life completely. Rather, start with changing your mindset. Instead of moving away from things, youre moving toward new habits that will help you create a healthier and more enjoyable future.
Now is always the right time to start taking care of your heart health. If you need a little support, lean on friends and family. And dont forget: Your doctor is always there for you with advice, motivation and encouragement so you can reach your goals and live healthier.
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Why Do I Need A Cholesterol Test
Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance. Your liver makes all the cholesterol your body needs. But you take in more cholesterol from certain foods, such as those from animals. If you have too much cholesterol in your body, it can build up in the walls of your arteries and eventually harden. This process, called atherosclerosis, actually narrows the arteries, making it harder for blood to travel through the vessels.
Unfortunately, high cholesterol doesn’t cause symptoms. In later stages of atherosclerosis, though, you may suffer angina — severe chest pain from lack of blood flow to the heart. If an artery gets totally blocked, a heart attack results. A routine blood cholesterol test is a far better way of finding out what your cholesterol level is.
Symptoms Of High Cholesterol
Often, there are no specific symptoms of high cholesterol. You could have high cholesterol and not know it.
If you have high cholesterol, your body may store the extra cholesterol in your arteries. These are blood vessels that carry blood from your heart to the rest of your body. A buildup of cholesterol in your arteries is known as plaque. Over time, plaque can become hard and make your arteries narrow. Large deposits of plaque can completely block an artery. Cholesterol plaques can also break apart, leading to formation of a blood clot that blocks the flow of blood.
A blocked artery to the heart can cause a heart attack. A blocked artery to your brain can cause a stroke.
Many people dont discover that they have high cholesterol until they suffer one of these life-threatening events. Some people find out through routine check-ups that include blood tests.
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