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What Do Cholesterol Numbers Mean

Ldl Cholesterol: Bad Cholesterol

What Is A Normal Cholesterol Level? – by Dr Sam Robbins

Low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, often referred to as bad cholesterol, is the type that tends to deposit on the walls of the arteries. White blood cells combine with the LDL cholesterol, forming artery-narrowing plaque, which restricts blood flow. The optimal level of LDL cholesterol for most people is 100 mg/dL or lower. If you have heart disease, you may need to strive for LDL levels of 70 mg/dL or lower.

Good Bad And Total Cholesterol: What Does It All Mean

If youve discussed cholesterol with your primary care physician, you know there are different types of cholesterol that affect your body in different ways. However, many people havent been educated about cholesterol. Is there really good cholesterol and bad cholesterol? What is a healthy cholesterol level, and how do you manage cholesterol? Heres some information to help you understand what cholesterol is all about.

The Total Amount Of Cholesterol In Your Blood

Whats healthy? Government advice has moved away from giving absolute figures, but ideally your cholesterol should be be 5 mmol/L or less, or 4 mmol/L if youre at high risk of CVD, or you have high blood pressure, diabetes or have had a cardiovascular event.

What should I do? If your TC level is too high, you can help bring it down by making some simple diet and lifestyle changes, such as:

  • Being more active.
  • Cutting down on foods rich in saturated fats, such as butter, lard and full-fat dairy.
  • Swapping fatty meats for lean meats, such as chicken.
  • Eating more foods with healthy fats, such as olive oil, nuts, seeds and oily fish.
  • Having meat-free days – try Quorn® or soya products instead.
  • Eating more fruits, vegetables and wholegrains, especially oats and barley.
  • Including more foods fortified with plant sterols or stanols in your diet.

Your doctor or nurse will tell you when you need to be tested again.

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About Your Cholesterol Result

A cholesterol test can measure:

  • total cholesterol the overall amount of cholesterol in your blood, including both good and bad cholesterol
  • good cholesterol this makes you less likely to have heart problems or a stroke
  • bad cholesterol this makes you more likely to have heart problems or a stroke
  • triglycerides a fatty substance similar to bad cholesterol

When you get your result, you may just be told your total cholesterol.

You might be able to get separate results for your good and bad cholesterol and triglycerides. Ask your doctor or nurse.

What To Know About Triglycerides

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In addition to cholesterol, you might hear about your triglycerides, another kind of fat found in the bloodstream. Women should pay particular attention to this. A high level of triglycerides seems to predict an even greater risk for heart disease in women compared with men, says Michos.

When you take in more calories than you need, your body converts the extra calories into triglycerides, which are then stored in fat cells. Triglycerides are used by the body for energy, but people with excess triglycerides have higher risk of medical problems, including cardiovascular disease. Drinking a lot of alcohol and eating foods containing simple carbohydrates , saturated fats and trans fats contributes to high triglycerides. High levels may also be caused by health conditions such as diabetes, an underactive thyroid, obesity, polycystic ovary syndrome or kidney disease.

Triglycerides also circulate in the bloodstream on particles that may contribute to plaque formation. Many people with high triglycerides have other risk factors for atherosclerosis, including high LDL levels or low HDL levels, or abnormal blood sugar levels. Genetic studies have also shown some association between triglycerides and cardiovascular disease.

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Factors That Affect Cholesterol Levels

Your diet affects your cholesterol levels. Saturated fat raises your LDL level. It comes from certain meats and dairy products. Fried and processed foods have saturated fat too. They may also have trans fats. These fats raise your LDL and lower your HDL cholesterol.

Other lifestyle factors that affect your cholesterol levels include:

  • Being overweight

How Does Cholesterol Cause A Heart Attack

Bad forms of cholesterol seep into the inner walls of the arteries, creating plaque. Like sores on your skin, plaques are raw, sensitive to infection, which means they make the inside skin of the arteries a breeding ground for inflammation.

High blood levels of bad cholesterol can lead to heart attacks.

The higher our blood levels of bad cholesterol, the more plaques tend to form, and the more inflamed the arterial skin becomes.

Plaque build-up is also known as atherosclerosis.

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Nutritip: Prepare For Your Test

Several things can affect the accuracy of cholesterol blood tests: fluctuations in weight, changes in diet, pregnancy, and excessive alcohol intake. The most accurate results are obtained when your weight has been stable for at least two weeks and you are eating your usual diet. While total cholesterol and HDL are fairly accurate without fasting, the most accurate measurements of triglycerides and LDL can be obtained first thing in the morning after a 12- hour, overnight fast.

What Other Tests Might I Have Along With This Test

Cholesterol: Know Your Numbers

Your healthcare provider may also order other tests to look at how well your heart is working. These tests may include:

  • Electrocardiogram, or ECG, which tests your hearts electrical impulses to see if it is beating normally
  • Stress test, in which you may have to exercise while being monitored by ECG
  • Echocardiogram, which uses sound waves to make pictures of your heart
  • Cardiac catheterization. For this test, a healthcare provider puts a tube into your blood vessels and injects dye. X-rays are then done to look for clogs in the arteries of the heart

Your provider may also order tests for high blood pressure or blood sugar, or glucose.

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What Do My Cholesterol Results Mean What Should I Aim For

To understand your cholesterol numbers, its a good idea to understand, first of all, what cholesterol is.

Cholesterol is a complex molecule found in all animals, including humans. Its vital for a number of reasons. It makes hormones and cell membranes and carries out numerous cell functions. We would not exist without cholesterol, but then again, neither would plaque build-up and heart disease.

Our body, particularly our liver, manufactures all the cholesterol we need. We do not need any more from the food we eat.

Eating foods high in cholesterol, saturated fat, and trans fats can very easily raise levels of cholesterol in our blood. Its this extra cholesterol that can cause a world of hurt in our arteries.

Why High Cholesterol Matters

High cholesterol puts you at risk for heart disease and stroke, leading causes of death in the U.S. High levels of LDL cholesterol can contribute to plaque buildup on the walls of the arteries, narrowing the arteries and restricting blood flow. If some of this plaque breaks off and gets stuck in a narrowed artery, it can block the artery and cut off blood supply to the heart or brain, resulting in heart attack or stroke.

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Cholesterol Chart For Adults

According to the 2018 guidelines on the management of blood cholesterol published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology , these are the acceptable, borderline, and high measurements for adults.

All values are in mg/dL and are based on fasting measurements.

Total cholesterol

Your doctor may recommend a plan of treatment for high cholesterol that includes lifestyle modifications and potentially medication. This will vary based on factors like other medications you may be taking, your age, sex, and general health.

Here are some medications more commonly prescribed for high cholesterol:

Medications can also be used to treat contributing factors to cholesterol like triglycerides. These may be used in addition to some of the medications above.

Who Should Be Screened For High Cholesterol Levels

What Causes Low HDL Cholesterol Levels?

The 2003 Recommendations for Dyslipidemia Management in Canada says that, although any person can be screened for high cholesterol levels, screening for high cholesterol is specifically recommended for:

  • men over 40 years of age
  • women who are postmenopausal or over 50 years of age
  • people who have diabetes
  • people who have risk factors such as hypertension, smoking or abdominal obesity
  • people who have a strong family history of premature heart disease or stroke
  • people who have physical signs of high cholesterol
  • people who have evidence of vascular or coronary artery disease .

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The American Heart Association Recommends

All adults age 20 or older should have their cholesterol checked every four to six years. If certain factors put you at high risk, or if you already have heart disease, your doctor may ask you to check it more often. Work with your doctor to determine your risk for cardiovascular disease and stroke and create a plan to reduce your risk.

How Often Should I Get A Cholesterol Test

When and how often you should get a cholesterol test depends on your age, risk factors, and family history. The general recommendations are:

For people who are age 19 or younger:

  • The first test should be between ages 9 to 11
  • Children should have the test again every 5 years
  • Some children may have this test starting at age 2 if there is a family history of high blood cholesterol, heart attack, or stroke

For people who are age 20 or older:

  • Younger adults should have the test every 5 years
  • Men ages 45 to 65 and women ages 55 to 65 should have it every 1 to 2 years

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Can I Test My Own Cholesterol At Home

Its better to have your cholesterol tested by a professional because taking blood and measuring cholesterol levels is a skilled job and your results will be affected by the way you do the test. Going to a health professional means you will get an accurate reading.

We dont recommend home sampling, but if you do decide to test your cholesterol at home, follow these simple steps to take your sample safely and get a more accurate result.

How To Compute Non

Cholesterol Numbers – Mayo Clinic

Most standard lipid panels nowadays include your non-HDL number, but if your panel does not, its easy to figure out.

Heres the formula:

Non-HDL cholesterol is: Total cholesterol minus HDL cholesterol. So if your total cholesterol is 190 and your HDL cholesterol is 40, your non-HDL cholesterol is 150.

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The Pros And Cons Of Total Cholesterol Hdl Ldl And Triglyceride Testing

Time to get your cholesterol checked. Okay, but which test should you get? It’s not so simple anymore. Here is a rundown of some of the choices and their pros and cons:

Total cholesterol. This is the simplest and least expensive test. The test doesn’t require any sophisticated lab work, either. The simple, do-it-yourself home cholesterol tests measure total cholesterol.

But total cholesterol includes both “good” high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, and the “bad” varieties, chiefly low-density lipoprotein and very-low-density lipoprotein . So, if your total cholesterol is in the desirable category, it’s possible that you may have unhealthy levels of HDL and LDL and VLDL . Think of total cholesterol as a first glimpse, a peek. Doctors are not supposed to make any treatment decisions based on this number alone.

Cholesterol levels can be lowered by stress or infection. An injury, cancer, stroke, or heart attack may have the same effect. So, if your cholesterol levels are unusually high or low, your doctor will probably want to repeat the test some weeks later. Abnormal readings may also lead to tests for other medical problems.

HDL cholesterol. HDL wins its laurels as the “good” cholesterol because it sponges up cholesterol from blood vessel walls and ferries it to the liver for disposal. In contrast, LDL deposits the harmful fat in vessel walls.

An HDL level of 60 or above is associated with a lower risk of heart disease, and below 40 is associated with a higher risk.

How To Lower Cholesterol: Low

Low-carbohydrate diets may help improve HDL cholesterol levels. The National Institutes of Health conducted a study that found while both low-fat and low-carb dieters lost weight over the two-year study period, low-carb dieters also improved their HDL cholesterol levels. The problem with low-carb diets is that they may be difficult to adhere to. Consult your doctor about the best healthy eating plan to manage your cholesterol.

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Cholesterol By The Numbers

The American Heart Association suggests adults over the age of 20 check their cholesterol levels every four to six years. If youre considered high risk, you may need to check it more often. Cholesterol levels are determined by a blood test in the form of a lipid panel that examines the bodys HDL, LDL, triglycerides and total blood cholesterol, which is calculated by combining your HDL and LDL cholesterol numbers with 20% of your triglyceride results.

If your blood has too many fats from cholesterol and triglycerides, the body may be experiencing hyperlipidemia. This condition causes a risk of blockages because there is an increase in fatty deposits in arteries. On the other end of the spectrum, when HDL levels drop, there is less good cholesterol to remove the bad and the risk of atherosclerotic plaque and blockages in the arteries increase.

How Are Blood Cholesterol Test Results Interpreted

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Doctors interpret blood cholesterol test results by examining each person’s risk factors. The doctor looks at the presence or absence of risk factors such as existing heart disease, diabetes and other medical and lifestyle conditions to determine the person’s chance of dying from heart disease or having a non-fatal heart attack within 10 years. The doctor will place the patient in either a high, intermediate or low risk category, and can then create an effective treatment plan for that person, either with lifestyle changes, medication or both.

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What Do Your Triglyceride Results Mean

Triglycerides are another type of blood fat and your triglyceride levels can tell you more about your health. If your triglycerides are high, it can mean youre at risk of heart disease, liver disease and diabetes.

You might have your triglycerides tested when you have a cholesterol test.

People with high triglyceride levels often have a low HDL level as well, which is an unhealthy combination.

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.

Watch an animation about cholesterol score.

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What Complications Are Possible If You Dont Treat High Cholesterol Levels In Your Blood

The main reason to treat high cholesterol is to prevent or treat coronary heart disease , also called coronary artery disease or CAD. CHD happens when heart is not able to get enough oxygen-rich blood to function well and kills more people in the U.S. than any other cause of death. CHD usually refers to the large arteries, but there is also a condition called coronary microvascular disease that affects the small vessels and causes damage.

How To Improve Non

What Do Cholesterol Levels Mean for Diabetics?

For essentially everyone, any significant improvement in non-HDL likely means significant reductions in heart attack risks. Non-HDL levels improve, and rapidly so, among guests at the Pritikin Longevity Center.

Following 4,587 men at women at Pritikin, research found that non-HDL levels fell on average 24% within three weeks.

Some factors that tend to raise cholesterol in the blood are unalterable. They include family history, age, and gender.

The good news is that many factors are in fact alterable. Hearteningly, there is much we can do to lower our non-HDL and LDL cholesterol levels.

Recommended Values For Non-HDL Cholesterol:

Less than 100 if youre healthy.

Less than 80 if you have coronary artery disease.

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How Are Cholesterol Tests Results Used

Your doctor will make a treatment recommendation based on your level of heart disease risk. Guidelines do not use a single cholesterol level to determine treatment options.

  • If you already have coronary heart disease with symptoms such as chest pain or a previous heart attack, taking medication to reduce your low density lipoprotein cholesterol is very beneficial and possibly life-saving.
  • If you have been hospitalized due to heart attack or stroke, you will start treatment before you leave the hospital. The latest 2018 cholesterol guidelines recommend using a high-intensity statin , such as higher doses of rosuvastatin or atorvastatin to get cholesterol levels below 70 mg/dL. You will be encouraged to follow a heart-healthy diet, exercise, lose weight and stop smoking, if needed.
  • If you do not have a diagnosis of heart disease but your cholesterol levels are high, your doctor will look at your other risk factors, and may determine your 10-year risk of cardiac disease. Usually, lifestyle changes like a healthy diet and exercise are implemented for the first 6 to 12 months. Diet and exercise can drop cholesterol levels by roughly 10 percent.


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