Questions To Ask Your Doctor
If testing shows you have high cholesterol, you may want to ask your doctor these questions at your next visit.
1. What are the dangers of having high cholesterol? Can other problems develop?
2. What could have caused my cholesterol to be too high? Is it inherited?
3. Are there things I can do at home or in my life to reduce my cholesterol?
4. Is medicine necessary? Are there alternative treatments?
5. If medicine is needed, how does the medicine work?
6. How long can I take medicine? What are the side effects? Is long-term use harmful?
7. How can exercise help to lower my cholesterol?
8. Where can I learn more about how to live with high cholesterol?
9. What changes should I make to the way I eat?
10. How often do I need to get my cholesterol level checked?
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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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Good And Bad Cholesterol
Theres only one kind of cholesterol but it is carried around the body by different carriers called lipoproteins, notably:
- Low density lipoprotein
- High density lipoprotein
In simple terms, cholesterol carried by LDLs is considered bad because when theres too much of it circulating in your blood it contributes to plaque build-up that clogs arteries and makes them less flexible . If you have high blood cholesterol your goal will be to reduce LDL levels in your blood.
On the other hand, cholesterol carried by HDLs is considered good because it carries cholesterol away from the arteries and back to the liver, where it is broken down and passed from the body. Any lifestyle changes or treatment for high blood cholesterol will aim to ensure HDL levels are increased or maintained at healthy levels.
When blood cholesterol tests are done, the level of triglycerides in your blood is also measured. Triglycerides are the most common type of fat that exists in food and in the body. When calories ingested in a meal are not used immediately by the body, they are converted to triglycerides and are transported to the fat cells to be stored. It is thought that elevated triglyceride levels may increase the risk of developing heart disease, particularly when associated with high LDL-cholesterol levels.
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How Can I Lower My Cholesterol Level
The first step in reducing your cholesterol is to maintain a healthy, balanced diet. Its important to keep your diet low in fatty food.
You can swap food containing saturated fat for fruit, vegetables and wholegrain cereals. This will also help prevent high cholesterol returning.
If these measures dont reduce your cholesterol and you continue to have a high risk of developing heart disease, your GP may prescribe a cholesterol-lowering medication, such as statins.
Your GP will take into account the risk of any side effects from statins. The benefit of lowering your cholesterol must outweigh any risks.
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General Information And Causes
Cholesterol is a white, waxy substance that is circulated in the blood. It is essential for your good health as it helps to build cell walls and is used in the manufacture of some hormones.
However, when there is more cholesterol circulating in the blood than the body needs, it can build up on your artery walls, eventually leading to narrowing and hardening of the arteries. This process is known as atherosclerosis and increases the risk of heart attack, stroke and other cardiovascular diseases. More than half of New Zealanders admitted to hospital with a heart attack have high cholesterol levels.
This risk of a cardiovascular health event increases when high blood cholesterol is accompanied by other risk factors such as high blood pressure and a family history of heart disease.
Your liver produces most of the cholesterol circulating in your blood. A diet high in saturated fat stimulates the liver to produce more cholesterol so the saturated fat content of the food you eat is likely to have a strong influence on your blood cholesterol levels.
A small proportion of your blood cholesterol is derived from dietary cholesterol – i.e. cholesterol that is already present in animal foods you might consume .
Other factors that may influence your blood cholesterol levels include:
- Genetic susceptibility to high cholesterol
The Cold Hard Facts On Cholesterol
According to the CDC, more than 102 million American adults have total cholesterol levels at or above 200 mg/dL. More than 35 million of these have levels exceeding 240 mg/dL. Which puts them at high risk for heart disease.10
These are frightening statistics. Its obvious that many Americans dont know that theyre at risk or dont know how to change that risk.
If youre carrying a little too much weight, know that youre eating a poor diet, or have a family history of high cholesterol or heart disease, you should see your doctor immediately for a very simple cholesterol test. Once you know where things stand, it becomes so much easier to improve your cholesterol.
Taking care of your heart must be at the top of everyones list weve only got one engine for life, after all.
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Foods To Eat To Lower Cholesterol
When it comes to keeping your LDL cholesterol and triglycerides on the low end, there are many things you can focus on with foods you eat.
As we said already, the two main things to focus on are lowering your saturated fat intake and increasing your soluble fiber intake. But other than that increasing nutrient rich plant foods can help impact your cholesterol in a positive way.
Here are some foods you can incorporate into your diet to help:
What Is Considered A Normal Cholesterol Level
Its important to understand what is considered normal for cholesterol levels, as you will no doubt have your cholesterol tested many times. In fact, you should be having your cholesterol tested as part of your yearly physical exam. Dont be fooled if youre a skinny body type, either. The sneaky thing about cholesterol is that you can be a slim person and still have high cholesterol.4
Cholesterol levels are measured in milligrams per tenth-liter of blood. To determine your healthy total cholesterol levels, your HDL and LDL are added together.
This reading should be below 200 mg/dL. You can break that down further and say that your LDL cholesterol should always be less than 160 mg/dl, 130 mg/dL, or 100 mg/dL depending on your risk factors.
These risk factors could include a family history of heart disease, menopause, and others. Meanwhile, your HDL cholesterol should sit around 35 mg/dL, but preferably higher.5
The higher your HDL level, the more you are protected against LDL cholesterol and the problems it can cause.
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How Is High Cholesterol Diagnosed
You cant tell if you have high cholesterol without having it checked. A simple blood test will reveal your cholesterol level.
Men 35 years of age and older and women 45 years of age and older should have their cholesterol checked. Men and women 20 years of age and older who have risk factors for heart disease should have their cholesterol checked. Teens may need to be checked if they are taking certain medicines or have a strong family history of high cholesterol. Ask your doctor how often you should have your cholesterol checked.
Risk factors for heart disease include:
- Cigarette smoking.
- Having an immediate family member who has had heart disease.
- Being overweight or obese.
Why Is It Important To Have A Normal Cholesterol Level
A high cholesterol level can increase your risk of having a heart attack or stroke. You have an even higher risk if you also have other risk factors, such as:
Age over 45 for men and over 55 for women
High blood pressure
A history of heart disease in your father or a brother before he was 55 years of age or in your mother or a sister before she was 65 years of age
A low HDL cholesterol level
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How Can I Lower My Ldl Cholesterol Without Medications
The first step in managing any case of high LDL is through adopting healthy, therapeutic lifestyle changes . The key to TLC is:
- Adjusting diet: Adopting specific, heart-healthy eating habits, such as the TLC diet, Mediterranean diet, or the Dietary Approaches to Hypertension eating plan can dramatically improve LDL levels. These limit intake of trans fats, salt, and cholesterol, while boosting healthy, unsaturated fats.
- Managing weight: If you’re overweight or obese, even moderate reductions in weight can help lower LDL. Incorporating healthier lifestyle habits, such as improving diet, sleep quality, and level of physical activity can make a big difference.
- Staying active: Ensuring that you’re getting enough physical activity will also help reduce LDL levels. Aiming for a bare minimum of 30 minutes a day of moderate exercise, such as taking daily walks or cycling, can help a great deal.
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.
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Who Should Get One And How Often
Everyone should get regular cholesterol checks, although the optimal frequency depends on age and certain health risk factors.
The American Heart Association recommends cholesterol testing for most adults every 46 years , starting at the age of 20 years. This testing will continue as long as they have a low risk of stroke or heart attack. After the age of 40 years, a doctor will calculate a persons risk and may suggest more frequent testing.
Some people have an increased risk of developing high cholesterol and may need additional testing. These individuals include:
- people with a family history of heart disease or high cholesterol
- anyone who had high cholesterol levels in a previous test
- people with type 2 diabetes
lower LDL cholesterol levels than males on average, but their levels may increase after menopause.
Children should also undergo cholesterol tests. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend testing a childs cholesterol levels once at age 911 years and again between the ages of 17 and 21 years.
Cholesterol testing generally does not take place during puberty because hormones can alter the results of the test.
Measuring Ldl Cholesterol Levels
Given the severity of what it can lead to, its little wonder that screening LDL levels is an important and essential part of health evaluation. This is measured using a blood test called a lipoprotein profile. Heres a breakdown of how the assessment works:
- Fasting: You may have to fast for 9 to 12 hours before your appointment for an accurate LDL level. This means holding back from eating, having certain beverages, or taking some medications.
- Sampling: The lipoprotein test, like other blood tests, only requires a small sample of blood. Its usually drawn from a vein in the arm, and all youll feel is a pinprick.
- Multiple Measures: The amounts of four lipoproteins are measured: LDL, HDL, triglyceride, and total cholesterol levels. Other lipoproteins such as very low-density lipoprotein may be measured as well.
Recommendations as to how often you should have your cholesterol levels checked vary based on your age and health status. Typically, adults over the age of 20 should be screened once every five years, with the first test administered when children are 9 to 11. Men aged 45 to 65, and women 55 to 65 should be screened every one to two years.
However, more frequent assessment is needed for those who have certain risk-factors for heart disease, including:
Notably, in men over 40, LDL levels will be part of an equation used to determine risk of developing stroke or heart attack within 10 years.
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What Foods Contribute To High Ldl Cholesterol
Furthermore, what is considered high LDL?
How can I lower my LDL?
1.Eat heart-healthy foods
What causes LDL cholesterol to be high?
Getting Help For Your Child
If you are worried about your child’s weight, consider consulting with a registered dietitian or expressing your concerns with your pediatrician.
Children can benefit from getting involved in meal planning, shopping, and cooking, reducing intake of sweetened beverages, and learning how to eat more fruits and vegetables. Being a good role model and getting the entire family on board is also important for making changes and providing your child with confidence.
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What Are Normal Cholesterol Levels
People who do not have heart disease should aim for the following cholesterol levels:
|Cholesterol Test Results||Clinical Meaning|
|Total cholesterol below 200 mg/dL||Levels above 200 mg/dL are considered high and mean a higher risk for developing heart disease|
|LDL cholesterol below 130 mg/dL||LDL should be lower than this for those at risk of heart attacks or stroke|
|HDL cholesterol above 60 mg/dL||
|Triglycerides below 150 mg/dL||Levels higher than 150 mg/dL increase the risk of developing heart disease and metabolic syndrome, which is also a risk factor for heart disease, diabetes, and stroke|
|Non-HDL cholesterol below 160 mg/dL||
How Cholesterol Moves Around The Body
Cholesterol is a white, insoluble and waxy substance. It is carried around the body by two key transport systems in the blood, which include:
- Low-density lipoprotein cholesterol carries most of the cholesterol that is delivered to cells. It is called the bad cholesterol because when its level in the bloodstream is high, it can clog up your arteries.
- High-density lipoprotein cholesterol is called the good cholesterol, because it helps remove excess cholesterol out of the cells, including cells in the arteries.
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What Are Normal Levels Of Cholesterol
Normal levels of cholesterol are different depending on your age and sex. These guidelines show desirable total, non-HDL, LDL and HDL levels by age and sex.
Table 1: Target cholesterol levels by age and sex
|Age and sex|
People aged 19 years and younger Men aged 20 years and olderWomen aged 20 years and older
The table above spells out the numbers for normal cholesterol levels. The table below shows cholesterol levels that are higher than normal. High cholesterol numbers vary by age group and sex and may be different for those who have heart disease. These guidelines represent high cholesterol numbers for those who do not have heart disease.
Table 2: High total, non-HDL and LDL cholesterol levels by age and sex
|Age and sex|
|People aged 19 years and younger|
Borderline: 170-199 mg/dL
High: Greater than or equal to 200 mg/dL
Borderline: 120-144 mg/dL
High: Greater than or equal to 145 mg/dL
Borderline: 110-129 mg/dL
High: Greater than or equal to 130 mg/dL
High: Greater than or equal to 239 mg/dL
Near optimal or above optimal: 100-129 mg/dL
Borderline high: 130-159 mg/dL
Very high: Greater than 189 mg/dL
High: Greater than or equal to 239 mg/dL
Near optimal or above optimal: 100-129 mg/dL
Borderline high: 130-159 mg/dL
Very high: Greater than 189 mg/dL
LDL cholesterol levels
If you do not have heart disease or blood vessel disease, and you are not at high risk for developing heart disease, the optimal number is less than 100 mg/dL.