Myth: Eating Foods With A Lot Of Cholesterol Will Not Make My Cholesterol Levels Go Up
Fact: It can be complicated. We know that foods with a lot of cholesterol usually also have a lot of saturated fat. Saturated fats can make your cholesterol numbers higher, so its best to choose foods that are lower in saturated fats. Foods made from animals, including red meat, butter, and cheese, have a lot of saturated fats.
Instead, aim to eat foods with plenty of fiber, such as oatmeal and beans, and healthy unsaturated fats, such as avocados, olive oil, and nuts. Learn more about healthy diets and nutrition at CDCs nutrition, physical activity, and obesity website.
Talk with your health care provider about ways to manage your cholesterol. Learn more about medicines to lower cholesterol.
What Is A Healthy Blood Cholesterol Level
For people who have plaque in their arteries or who have other factors that put them at risk for cardiovascular disease, doctors recommend an ideal LDL level well below 70 mg/dl. For those without risk factors who have an LDL level at or above 190 mg/dl, the recommendation is to get this level down to below 100 mg/dl. People age 40 to 75 who are living with diabetes and whose LDL is at 70 or above may need medication.
What Are Ldl And Hdl
LDL and HDL are two types of lipoproteins. They are a combination of fat and protein. The lipids need to be attached to the proteins so they can move through the blood. LDL and HDL have different purposes:
- LDL stands for low-density lipoproteins. It is sometimes called the “bad” cholesterol because a high LDL level leads to a buildup of cholesterol in your arteries.
- HDL stands for high-density lipoproteins. It is sometimes called the “good” cholesterol because it carries cholesterol from other parts of your body back to your liver. Your liver then removes the cholesterol from your body.
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How Do I Know What My Ldl Level Is
A blood test can measure your cholesterol levels, including LDL. When and how often you should get this 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
Work With Your Doctor On A Lower Cholesterol Plan
Lowering your cholesterol doesnt mean going it alone. Your primary care doctor is a helpful partner along your journey.
Your doctor can work with you to create an action plan just for you one that combines diet, exercise and other lifestyle changes to help you lower and manage your cholesterol.
For example, losing weight and quitting smoking can be big helpers for lowering cholesterol. Quitting smoking can raise your good HDL cholesterol levels, and losing weight can lower your bad LDL cholesterol levels significantly.
But these two tasks arent easy. Fortunately, your primary care doctor can be a great resource to help you get started and find practical ways to stick with it. Plus, help with quitting smoking and losing weight may already be covered if you have health insurance.
Whether you want to quit smoking, lose weight or just learn more about how your personal health would benefit from lower cholesterol levels, regular check-ins with your doctor are key. They can also perform cholesterol tests the only way to actually measure cholesterol to check your progress and help you make adjustments based on the results.
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Whats The Difference Between Ldl And Hdl
Now lets break down cholesterol in order to figure out its relationship with saturated fat in our bodies. According to the CDC , cholesterol is broken up into two different categories of lipoproteins, LDL and HDL . LDL is often referred to as the bad cholesterol while HDL is promoted as the good cholesterol.
While LDLs can actually increase your risk of health issues like heart disease, HDLs can lower your risk of heart disease by either dissolving excess cholesterol or carrying extra cholesterol through the liver to be discarded from the body. So while cholesterol gets an overarching scary name it should be LDLs we should be scared of and HDLs which we supply our bodies with.
How To Lower Cholesterol Naturally
In some cases, you may be able to lower your cholesterol levels without taking medications. For example, it may be enough to eat a nutritious diet, exercise regularly, and avoid smoking tobacco products.
Some people also claim that certain herbal and nutritional supplements may help lower cholesterol levels. For instance, such claims have been made about:
- ground flax seed
However, the level of evidence supporting these claims varies. Also, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration hasnt approved any of these products for treating high cholesterol. More research is needed to learn if they can help treat this condition.
Always talk to your doctor before taking any herbal or nutritional supplements. In some cases, they might interact with other medications youre taking. Learn more about natural remedies for high cholesterol.
Genetic risk factors for high cholesterol cant be controlled. However, lifestyle factors can be managed.
To lower your risk of developing high cholesterol:
- Eat a nutritious diet thats low in cholesterol and animal fats, and high in fiber.
- Avoid excessive alcohol consumption.
- Exercise regularly.
- Dont smoke.
You should also follow your doctors recommendations for routine cholesterol screening. If youre at risk of high cholesterol or coronary heart disease, they will likely encourage you to get your cholesterol levels tested on a regular basis. Find out how to get your cholesterol levels checked.
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Getting A Cholesterol Test
A blood sample is taken that will be used to determine the amount of bad cholesterol , good cholesterol and other fatty substances in your blood.
You may be asked not to eat for 10-12 hours before the cholesterol test, usually including when you’re asleep at night. This ensures that all food is completely digested and won’t affect the outcome of the test.
Your GP or practice nurse can carry out the cholesterol test and will take a blood sample, either using a needle and a syringe or by pricking your finger.
A newer type of test that measures non-high-density lipoprotein is now sometimes used because it’s thought to be a more accurate way of estimating cardiovascular disease risk than LDL.
Non-HDL cholesterol is total cholesterol minus HDL cholesterol. It’s also not necessary to fast before the test, so it is more convenient.
Foods That May Increase Your Cholesterol
Tape this list to your refrigerator and kick any of these offenders out of your pantry!
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Myth: I Dont Need Statins Or Other Medicines For My Cholesterol I Can Manage My Cholesterol With Diet And Exercise
Fact: Although many people can achieve good cholesterol levels by making healthy food choices and getting enough physical activity, some people may also need medicines called statins to lower their cholesterol levels. Guidelinesexternal icon also suggest that other medicines in addition to statins may be needed to help control cholesterol.2
People who may need statins or other medicines to manage cholesterol levels include the following:
- People with familial hypercholesterolemia or people with very high levels of bad cholesterol. FH is a genetic condition that causes very high LDL cholesterol levels beginning at a young age. If left untreated, cholesterol levels will continue to get worse. This greatly raises the risk for heart disease, heart attack, and stroke at a young age.
- People with cardiovascular disease . People with CVD may already have narrowed arteries because of too much plaque. Medicines that lower cholesterol may help reduce the risk for heart attack or stroke.
- People with diabetes.Type 2 diabetes lowers HDL or good cholesterol levels and raises bad cholesterol levels. This combination raises your risk of heart disease and stroke.
Other groups of people may also need medicines to manage their cholesterol, including people who have a high risk for CVD. Always talk to your health care provider about the best ways to manage your cholesterol.
Recent Guidelines For Normal Cholesterol Levels
Your body needs some cholesterol to function properly, including some LDL. But if your LDL levels are too high, it can raise your risk of serious health problems.
In 2013, the American College of Cardiologists and the American Heart Association developed new guidelines for the treatment of high cholesterol.
Before this change, doctors would manage cholesterol based on numbers in a cholesterol levels chart. Your doctor would measure your total cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, and LDL cholesterol levels. They would then decide whether to prescribe a cholesterol-lowering medication based on how your numbers compared to the numbers in the chart.
Under the new guidelines, in addition to your cholesterol levels, treatment recommendations consider other risk factors for heart disease. These risk factors include diabetes and the estimated 10-year risk for a cardiac event such as a heart attack or stroke. So what your normal cholesterol levels are depends on whether you have other risk factors for heart disease.
These new guidelines recommend that if you dont have risk factors for heart disease, your doctor should prescribe treatment if your LDL is greater than 189 mg/dL. To find out what your personal cholesterol recommendations are, talk to your doctor.
With the changes mentioned above in the treatment guidelines for high cholesterol, cholesterol charts are no longer considered the best way for doctors to gauge the management of cholesterol levels in adults.
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How Can I Lower My Ldl Level
There are two main ways to lower your LDL cholesterol:
- Therapeutic lifestyle changes . TLC includes three parts:
- Heart-healthy eating. A heart-healthy eating plan limits the amount of saturated and trans fats that you eat. Examples of eating plans that can lower your cholesterol 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 .
- 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-lowering drugs 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 still should continue with the lifestyle changes.
Some people with familial hypercholesterolemia may receive a treatment called lipoprotein apheresis. This treatment uses a filtering machine to remove LDL cholesterol from the blood. Then the machine returns the rest of the blood back to the person.
NIH: National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
Foods That Are Increasing Your Cholesterol
Cholesterol didnt inspire the phrase you are what you eat, but when it comes to lowering your risk of heart attack, the words still ring true. A healthy diet of lean meats and fresh vegetables is vital to reducing your cholesterol. While there are some important foods that should be a regular part of your diet, there are also foods that should be avoided because they have a bad track record where cholesterol is concerned.
What better way to celebrate National Cholesterol Education Month than with a list of the usual suspects that contribute to high cholesterol? If your numbers are high, youre not alone. More than 35 million Americans have cholesterol levels higher than 240 mg/dL, which means they are at higher risk for heart disease.
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How To Test Levels
In order to test for cholesterol levels, health care providers order blood tests. All adults 20 or older should have their cholesterol checked every four to six years, according to the American Heart Association.
In addition to a primary health care providers office, people may opt to get their levels checked at public screenings.
How Is Cholesterol Measured
Most people with high cholesterol feel perfectly well and often have no symptoms. The best way to find out if your cholesterol is high is to have a blood test .
Visit your GP to determine whether you need to lower your cholesterol level and what action to take.
GPs can also do a heart health check, that calculates your heart disease and stroke risk.
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Myth: I Would Be Able To Feel It If I Had High Cholesterol
Fact: High cholesterol usually has no signs or symptoms. You may not know you have unhealthy cholesterol levels until it is too latewhen you have a heart attack or stroke. Thats why its so important to get your cholesterol levels checked at least every 5 years.1,2 Learn more about getting your cholesterol checked.
Occasionally, some people develop yellowish growths on their skin called xanthomas, which are cholesterol-rich deposits. People with xanthomas may have high cholesterol levels.
Why Should I Lower My Cholesterol
Evidence strongly indicates that high cholesterol can increase the risk of:
- narrowing of the arteries
- transient ischaemic attack often known as a “mini stroke”
- peripheral arterial disease
This is because cholesterol can build up in the artery wall, restricting the blood flow to your heart, brain and the rest of your body. It also increases the risk of a blood clot developing somewhere in your body.
Your risk of developing coronary heart disease also rises as your blood’s cholesterol level increases. This can cause pain in your chest or arm during stress or physical activity .
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How To Diagnose High Cholesterol
To measure your cholesterol levels, your doctor will use a simple blood test. Its known as a lipid panel. They can use it to assess your levels of total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, and triglycerides.
To conduct this test, your doctor or other healthcare professional will take a sample of your blood. They will send this sample to a lab for analysis. When your test results become available, they will let you know if your cholesterol or triglyceride levels are too high.
To prepare for this test, your doctor may ask you to avoid eating or drinking anything for at least 12 hours beforehand. Learn more about testing your cholesterol levels.
High Cholesterol Treatments And Covid
If you are already taking cholesterol-lowering drugs like statins, you should continue to do so until advised otherwise by a healthcare professional, even if you are diagnosed as COVID-19 positive.
If you have been recently diagnosed with high cholesterol levels, your doctor may recommend lowering LDL levels using statins, cholesterol-lowering medications, to lessen the degree of injury to your blood vessels from COVID-19 attack.
In high-risk patients having severe COVID-19 disease, statin therapy may be initiated to prevent life-threatening cardiovascular complications.
Of note, some statins may cause severe side effects such as muscle aches and liver damage. If you are experiencing statin-associated muscle symptoms, inform a healthcare professional. Statin therapy may need to be discontinued if skeletal muscle symptoms and elevated liver enzymes persist.
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Cholesterol Levels In Young Adults Predict Risk Of Future Heart Disease
Young people with even modestly elevated cholesterol levels are more likely to develop coronary artery calcium and atherosclerosis later in life, according to a study by UCSF researchers.
The findings indicate that cholesterol levels found in the majority of young adults in their 20s and 30s are associated with damage to coronary arteries, which can accumulate over time and persist into middle age.
Findings were published August 2, 2010 in the Annals of Internal Medicine and available online at .
The findings refute the common assumption that non-optimal cholesterol levels are insignificant during young adulthood and suggest a stronger emphasis on early lifestyle intervention, according to Mark J. Pletcher, MD, MPH, who is first author on the study.
We dont usually worry too much about heart disease risk until a person is in middle age because its rare to have a heart attack in young adulthood, said Pletcher, who is an associate professor of Epidemiology & Biostatistics and of Medicine at UCSF. However, our evidence shows that young adulthood is an important time because lasting damage already starts to accumulate at this age.
In order to prevent heart disease and stroke more effectively, we should be thinking about cholesterol at a younger age, he said.
How Do You Prepare For A Cholesterol Test
In most cases, youll need to fast for nine to 12 hours before the test. Make sure you tell the person drawing your blood how long it has been since you ate or drank anything that wasnt water.
There are some cases when a cholesterol test is done without fasting. This is true for tests done at health screenings and may be true for people younger than 20 or for people who are unable to fast.
Some medical societies believe that fasting is not necessary to get a true picture of lipid levels in the blood, while other associations stand by the belief that fasting gives a better idea of a persons heart disease risk. You should be clear on whether or not you need to fast, and for how long, before you go for the blood test.
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