Understanding What Your Cholesterol Levels Mean
Medical professionals typically perform cholesterol levels testing among the battery of medical check-ups. They do so because high cholesterol or hypercholesterolemia is a popular medical condition that may considerably have an impact on your heart and overall health. To evaluate your blood cholesterol levels, your physician is going to perform a blood test known as a lipid panel, as well as a lipid profile. It is recommended to not eat or drink anything, apart from water, for approximately 9 hours before the exam to ensure correct evaluation results., while recent studies suggest that it is not necessary. With this guide, you will understand what your results mean. You will know about the total cholesterol, the HDL, the LDL, the triglycerides and even a less popular lipoprotein such as the VLDL. Keep reading!
What Is A Good Cholesterol Level
A good cholesterol level is different for people of different ages and sexes. For example, for anyone younger than 20 years old, total cholesterol should be less than 170 mg/dL, non-HDL cholesterol should be less than 120 mg/dL, LDL cholesterol should be less than 100 mg/dL, and HDL cholesterol should be more than 45 mg/dL.
Can You Get Rid Of Cholesterol Deposits
Researchers are working on ways to eliminate plaque from coronary arteries. One method that has been proposed involves using combinations of medicines in healthy people aged 25 to 55 years. It is suggested that getting the levels of cholesterol down very low will allow arteries to clear up and heal up.
Several researchers believe that the way to reverse heart disease, and to prevent it in the first place, is found in a whole food, plant-based diet. Studies have been done that have shown that limiting nutrition to whole foods that are plant-based have been successful in reducing blood cholesterol and even, in some cases, lessening plaque buildup.
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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.
How To Lower Ldl Cholesterol
Lifestyle and diet changes are the main ways to prevent or lower high LDL. A trial of eating a low-fat diet, regular aerobic activity, maintaining a healthy weight, and smaller waist circumference is an appropriate first step. It is best to set a timeline to achieve your goals with your doctor. In some cases, if those lifestyle changes are not enough, your physician may suggest a cholesterol lowering medication, such as a statin. If you are considering over-the-counter herbal or ayurvedic medications for cholesterol, please discuss those with your physician first as well.
Rarely, very high LDL is genetic and passed down in families. This is called familial hypercholesterolemia and is caused by a genetic mutation that decreases the livers ability to clear excess cholesterol. This condition can lead to very high LDL levels, and heart attack or stroke at a young age in multiple generations. Those individuals may require special medical treatment for prevention and treatment of atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease.
Remember, knowledge is the first step. If you dont know your cholesterol levels, get tested. That will give you and your physician a starting point for lifestyle changes and medications if needed. In the meantime, adopt a heart-healthy lifestyle, and do it with friends and family no matter their ages. Theres no time like the present to prevent heart disease.
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Understanding The Highs And Lows Of Cholesterol
You know that too much is dangerous. But what is cholesterol, anyway? Where does it come from? And is it all bad?
Cholesterol is a waxy substance that is found in every cell in the body. Its either made by the body or absorbed from food. Your body needs cholesterol to make important steroid hormones such as estrogen, progesterone and vitamin D. Its also used to make bile acids in the liver these absorb fat during digestion.
So some cholesterol is necessary but bad cholesterol is something you can do without. Excess bad cholesterol in the bloodstream can deposit into the bodys arteries. These deposits are called plaques and result in atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries. This is the major cause of heart attacks, strokes and other vascular problems.
Your total cholesterol level is a measure of the total amount of cholesterol circulating in your bloodstream, which includes several components:
- LDL cholesterol: LDL stands for low-density lipoprotein. This is known as the bad cholesterol, which directly contributes to plaque buildup in the arteries. Very low density lipoprotein, or VLDL cholesterol, is another type, which is a precursor to LDL.
- Total cholesterol is VLDL cholesterol plus LDL cholesterol plus HDL cholesterol.
- HDL cholesterol: HDL stands for high-density lipoprotein. Experts think at optimal levels it might help the body get rid of LDL cholesterol.
And guess what? This buildup can start as early as your 20s.
Good Cholesterol Is A Complex Measure
While the cholesterol-carrying function of HDL is important, it’s not the only way HDL helps your body function. HDL also alters the chemical composition of LDL, preventing it from becoming oxidized, Harvard Medical School reported in 2019. That prevents damage to the arteries and lowers inflammation.
In general, having more HDL is often associated with a lower risk of heart disease. But too much HDL can also cause an inflammatory response in your immune cells, according to a 2016 study in the journal Cell Metabolism. That response can counter its usual anti-inflammatory properties. The upshot is that HDL’s function isn’t so clear-cut as being “good,” rather, its benefit to the body depends on a balance between its positive and negative effects.
To further complicate matters, a separate report from Harvard Medical School suggests that HDL might, in the end, be more of a “bystander” than an agent of good. It might simply be a “marker” of your cholesterol level, rather than having a significant influence on the body.
In fact, the American Heart Association no longer recommends a specific range for HDL and LDL cholesterol instead, they look at cholesterol as part of your entire heart health.
The takeaway, if you’re managing cholesterol, is not to put too much stake into one number. Healthy diet, exercise, and other lifestyle changes can boost your heart health regardless of the precise amount of “good” cholesterol in your body.
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Why Age Is A Factor
The recommended ranges for your cholesterol will vary based on age and gender. As people get older, cholesterol levels rise naturally. For example, people who have gone through menopause may have higher LDL and lower HDL cholesterol levels.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children’s cholesterol levels be checked between ages 9 and 11.
However, children with certain risk factors, such as those whose parents or grandparents have had heart attacks or been diagnosed with blocked arteries at age 55 or earlier in males or 65 or earlier in females, should be tested for cholesterol between ages 2 and 10.
What Is Bad Cholesterol
Cholesterol moves in the body combined with proteins. This combination of cholesterol and proteins is called lipoproteins. The low-density lipoprotein or LDL cholesterol is called bad cholesterol. High levels of this cholesterol increase risk for heart diseases and stroke.
When you have high levels of LDL cholesterol in the body, the LDL cholesterol can accumulate on the walls of the blood vessels forming a plaque. The continuous cholesterol build-up or a plaque narrows the inside of the blood vessels with time. The narrowed blood vessel hampers the blood supply to the concerned organ. Thus, when the plaque is present in the heart, it can cause angina or a heart attack. Plaque build-up in the brain can cause a stroke.
Another type of cholesterol is HDL cholesterol. It is also called good cholesterol as it absorbs cholesterol and carries it back to the liver. The liver then removes the cholesterol from the body. HDL cholesterol, thus, can lower your risk for heart diseases and stroke.
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When Should You Contact Your Healthcare Provider About Your Cholesterol Levels
In truth, your healthcare provider will probably talk to you about your numbers first. As always, contact your provider if you have any new or worsening pain or other uncomfortable feelings. Make sure you know what medications you take and what they are expected to do. Call the provider if you have a reaction to the medicine.
Before you go to the office, and after you have had a cholesterol test, it helps to have a list of questions prepared about your test results and any proposed treatment.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
When considering cholesterol numbers, its important to remember that you really have the ability to make those numbers go in your favor. What you choose to eat, how much you are able to move and how you deal with lifes ups and downs are things that you can influence.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 07/31/2020.
When To See A Doctor
Both men and women over the age of 20 should have their cholesterol and a blood panel evaluated every 4 to 6 years, according to the American Heart Association.
This information can be used by doctors to treat early-stage illnesses. They can even anticipate your chance of having a heart attack or stroke in the next ten years or for the rest of your life. Because high cholesterol has no symptoms, it is critical for patients to obtain regular checkups.
If a blood test reveals excessive cholesterol levels, a doctor can assist in developing a strategy to mitigate the dangers. Lifestyle adjustments, such as exercise, diet, prescription medicine, and dietary counselling, may be included in this plan.
Weight loss and regular exercise, avoiding sugary foods and alcohol, and taking cholesterol-lowering medication may all help.
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What Does The Test Measure
An HDL cholesterol test analyzes a sample of blood to see how much cholesterol is present within high-density lipoprotein particles. Cholesterol is a waxy substance that is important for basic cell function. Cholesterol is transported through the body in the blood within lipoproteins, which are made up of fat and protein.
There are multiple kinds of lipoproteins that can carry cholesterol including high-density lipoproteins, low-density lipoproteins , and very low-density lipoproteins .
Cholesterol in LDL and VLDL particles can build up in the arteries and cause cardiovascular problems. In contrast, HDL particles transport cholesterol to the liver so that it can be eliminated from the body. Through this and other functions, HDL cholesterol helps protect against hardening and blockages of the arteries.
In practice, virtually all HDL cholesterol tests also measure total cholesterol, which is the sum of cholesterol found in all the different kinds of lipoproteins. By subtracting HDL cholesterol from total cholesterol, the doctor can determine the amount of non-HDL cholesterol that is present. In addition, tests like a lipid panel use a mathematical formula to calculate the amount of LDL cholesterol in your blood sample.
What Reduces Cholesterol Quickly
There is no quick fix for reducing cholesterol. But there are plenty of ways to reduce your cholesterol naturally. Eating a high fiber diet, reducing saturated fat, weight loss , exercise, and smoking cessation are just some of the things within your control. If lifestyle interventions are unsuccessful, medication is always an option.
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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.
What Are ‘normal’ Cholesterol Levels
The only way to know your cholesterol levels is through a blood test. You need to know your total cholesterol , as well as HDL and LDL. Triglycerides are another type of fat, related to, but different from cholesterol. High levels of triglycerides are also linked to heart disease. Here are what the numbers mean:
- Less than 200 is desirable
- Between 200 and 239 is borderline high
- From 240 up is considered high
- Less than 100 is optimal
- Between 100 and 129 is almost optimal
- Between 130 and 159 is borderline high
- Between 160 and 189 is considered high
- And 190 and above is deemed to be very high
- 60 and above is optimal
- Less than 40 for men is considered low
- Less than 50 for women is considered low
- Avoid full-fat dairy products. Instead, opt for skim milk, lower fat cheese, lower fat yogurt and trans-fat free spreads.
- Substitute heart healthy plant oils for butter and lard.
- Eat lean proteins: fish, skinless chicken, and lean meats. Avoid marbled meats and bacon.
- Body weight: Losing weight can help lower cholesterol. Regular exercise can increase HDL and lower LDL . Thirty minutes per day can have healthy benefits.
- Smoking: Dont do it.
Biology: We cant control
- Age: As we all age, cholesterol rises.
- Gender: After menopause, women are at greater risk for higher cholesterol.
- Heredity : Your genes can determine how much cholesterol your liver produces.
- Diabetes: This disease can alter the balance of LDL and HDL cholesterol.
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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.
Ldl Cholesterol: ‘bad’ Cholesterol
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.
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Are Home Cholesterol Testing Kits Accurate
The answer is yes if the tests are labeled CDC-certified. This means that the contents have been approved by the Cholesterol Reference Method Laboratory Network, a group that works with test makers, laboratories and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to make sure tests are accurate.
For home tests, you will still need to fast for 12 hours and to obtain blood for testing. Some kits come with packages for mailing to a lab for results. Other kits have a monitor so you can get the results at home. The cost of such home kits vary.
How Do I Know If My Cholesterol Is Too High
There are no signs or symptoms when it comes to high cholesterol. The only way to screen for it is through a blood test called a lipoprotein profile which measures your total cholesterol, LDL, HDL, and triglyceride levels. Everyone over the age of 20 should get screened for cholesterol levels every five years. Many people do not know they are affected until a life-threatening event occurs, said Chiadika.
When screening for cholesterol, the numbers below are recommended for an average adult:
- Total cholesterol level less than 200 milligrams per deciliter is best 240 mg/dL is considered high.
- LDL cholesterol levels less than 100 mg/dL is best, but this depends on your risk for heart disease.
- HDL cholesterol levels 60 mg/dL or higher reduces your risk for heart disease.
- Triglycerides less than 150 is best.
For children, the numbers below are acceptable:
- Total cholesterol level less than 170 mg/dL over 200 mg/dL is high.
- LDL cholesterol levels less than 110 mg/dL is best over 130 mg/dL is high.
Treatment options to lower cholesterol vary based on each individual persons needs, risk factors, and goals. Speak with your doctor to determine what works best for you.
UT Physicians is the clinical practice of McGovern Medical School at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston .
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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.