Preparing For Your Cholesterol Test
Your doctor or nurse will tell you if there is anything special you need to do in the days before your blood is drawn for the test. How youll prepare depends on the types of cholesterol test your doctor ordered.
Non-fasting blood lipid tests analyze only total cholesterol and HDL cholesterol. If youre getting this type of test, you can eat, drink, and take medication as usual.
Fasting lipid panels give you the whole picture when it comes to your cholesterol levels. For this test, youll need to fastavoid food and drink, except plain waterand go off medications for nine to 12 hours before the test.
Stick To Wrapped Candy
Yes, this is one of the weird weight loss tricks that involve candy. People ate 30 percent less candy when they had to unwrap it first, a Swiss study found. Peeling off the wrapper requires effort, which can make noshers eat less. For more weight loss tricks, read about these 50 breakthroughs doctors wish you knew.
What Are Hdl And Ldl
HDL and LDL 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. HDL and LDL have different purposes:
- 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.
- 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.
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Are Test Results Accurate
While no test is always accurate, measurements of blood cholesterol are an effective tool for estimating your risk of cardiovascular disease. Various factors can affect the accuracy of a cholesterol test:
- Direct vs calculated testing:;While calculated LDL cholesterol levels are sufficient in most cases, direct testing provides more accurate results in patients with elevated triglyceride levels. Patients who may have elevated triglyceride levels include those diagnosed with type II diabetes or obesity, patients with a history of considerable alcohol intake, and patients taking medication to increase triglycerides.
- Fasting: In most cases, a lipid profile requires fasting. Eating within 8-12 hours before a lipid panel may increase the level of triglycerides in your bloodstream. Because this increased level of triglycerides could affect the accuracy of calculated LDL cholesterol values, your doctor may request that you refrain from eating prior to your blood draw.
You Dont Need To Avoid Eggs And Seafood
Some foods are high in cholesterol but are fine to eat in moderation, as long as your overall diet is low in saturated fats. For example:
- Egg yolks a single egg yolk contains 200250 mg of cholesterol, which is almost the uppermost recommended daily intake . However, reducing egg intake is probably not important for healthy people with normal blood cholesterol levels.
- Seafood prawns and seafood contain some cholesterol, but they are low in saturated fat and also contain healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Seafood is a healthy food and should not be avoided just because it contains cholesterol. However, avoid fried and battered seafood.
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Cholesterol Levels And Age
Cholesterol levels tend to rise as people become older. Doctors advise taking precautions early in childhood to avoid dangerously high cholesterol levels later in life. It might be more difficult to treat years of uncontrolled cholesterol. Children are the least likely to have high cholesterol levels and only need to get their levels tested once or twice before the age of 18. However, if a kid has risk factors for high cholesterol levels, he or she should be checked on a regular basis.
Men often have greater cholesterol levels throughout their lives than women. In general, a manâs cholesterol levels rise with age. Women, on the other hand, are not immune to high cholesterol. When a woman enters menopause, her cholesterol level frequently climbs.
Same Numbers Different Ratio
Two people with the same total cholesterol number can have different cholesterol ratios. The ratios indicate different levels of heart disease risk. Harvard Medical School cites the following example: If your total cholesterol is 200 and your HDL is 60, your cholesterol ratio would be 3.3. Thats near the AHAs ideal level. However, if your HDL is 35 below the recommended level of 40 for men and 50 for women your cholesterol ratio would be 5.7. This ratio places you in a higher risk category.
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Lifestyle Tips To Cut Cholesterol
Changing some of your lifestyle habits may also help to reduce your cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Suggestions include:
- Cease alcohol consumption or reduce your alcohol intake to no more than one or two drinks a day. Avoid binge drinking. This may help lower your triglyceride levels.
- Dont smoke. Smoking increases the ability of LDL cholesterol to get into artery cells and cause damage.
- Exercise regularly . Exercise increases HDL levels while reducing LDL and triglyceride levels in the body.
- Lose any excess body fat. Being overweight may contribute to raised blood triglyceride and LDL levels.
- Control your blood sugar levels if you have diabetes. High blood sugars are linked to an increased risk of atherosclerosis , heart attacks and strokes.
Why Cholesterol Matters For Women
Erin Donnelly Michos, M.D., M.H.S.
Ah, cholesterol and triglycerides. We hear about them all the time. Even foods that might seem good for you on the surface, like fruit-filled yogurt or bran muffins, can contribute to abnormal levels if they contain too much saturated fat or refined sugar, says Erin Michos, M.D., associate director of preventive cardiology at the Ciccarone Center for the Prevention of Heart Disease.
Whats more, many women are at risk for high cholesterol and dont realize it. Approximately 45 percent of women over the age of 20 have a total cholesterol of 200 mg/dl and above, which is considered elevated but a survey by the American Heart Association found that 76 percent of women say they dont even know what their cholesterol values are, Michos says.
Scarier still: Triglycerides, a type of blood fat typically measured alongside cholesterol, are even more risky in women compared with men. This is a problem because womens cholesterol levels can fluctuate quite a bit after menopause and tend to increase with age, putting us at greater risk of heart disease and stroke. Knowing your cholesterol numbers and how to control them is a big step toward staying healthy.
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Eat A Bigger Breakfast Than Dinner
In a study in the journal;Obesity, one group of obese women consumed 700 calories at breakfast, 500 at lunch, and 200 at dinner. Another group ate the same foods but had 200 calories in the a.m. and 700 at night . After 13 months, the big-breakfast eaters shed 18 pounds, while the big-dinner eaters lost only about seven.
When Should I Have A Cholesterol Check
We believe all adults should know their cholesterol numbers, no matter what your age. Even if you havent been invited for a cholesterol check its a good idea to get one anyway because its the only way to know your cholesterol numbers.
You should also be offered a free cholesterol test by the NHS if any of the following apply to you:
You are aged 40-74
Your GP should invite you for an NHS health check once every five years from the age of 40 to 74. The NHS health check is designed to spot the early signs of heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, diabetes and dementia. Youll be weighed and measured, have a cholesterol check and a blood pressure check, and youll be asked some simple questions about your health.
You are at high risk of heart disease
Your GP or practice nurse might also offer you a cholesterol test if you are more likely to develop heart disease. For example, if other people in your family have had it, you smoke, youre overweight, or you have high blood pressure, diabetes or certain other health problems.
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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
Factors That Affect Cholesterol Levels
Several factors can affect your cholesterol levels. This includes age and gender, diet, weight, exercise, and genes. For starters, its normal for cholesterol levels to rise as we get older. Women also tend to have lower cholesterol levels than men. That is until they reach menopause. After that, womens LDL levels often rise and the HDL may drop.
Further, being overweight and lack of exercise can increase your triglycerides. However, simply being more active and managing a healthy weight will help lower your triglycerides and raise your HDL.
What you eat plays a big role in your cholesterol levels. Consuming saturated fats, trans fats, and cholesterol can all increase your cholesterol levels. Finally, if high cholesterol runs in your family, you may be at a greater risk for developing it.
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What Foods Cause High Cholesterol
Eating foods high in saturated fats and trans fats can raise your LDL and total cholesterol levels. Saturated fats are found in red meats, full-fat dairy products, and many processed foods. Trans fats are sometimes listed on food labels as partially hydrogenated vegetable oil. Trans fats are so unhealthy that the Food and Drug Administration has actually banned them as of January 1, 2021. Foods that can contribute to high cholesterol include:
Fatty beef, lamb, or pork
Poultry with skin
Butter, cheese, and other dairy products made with whole milk
Lard and shortening
A diet that helps you lower your cholesterol can include:
Plenty of vegetables and fruits
Tree nuts like almonds, walnuts, and pecans
Fatty fish like salmon, trout, tuna, mackerel, herring, and sardines
High-fiber foods like oatmeal and oat bran
Low-fat dairy foods
Some foods like margarine, yogurt, and orange juice can have sterols or stanols added to them. These plant-based substances help your body block the absorption of cholesterol from your diet and lower LDL levels.
What Should My Cholesterol Level Be At My Age
Cholesterol levels differ depending on age, weight, and gender. Because a personâs body produces more cholesterol with time, all adults should have their cholesterol levels checked on a regular basis, preferably every 4 to 6 years.
Cholesterol is classified into three types:
LDL, or âbad cholesterol,â
HDL, or âgood cholesterol,â
Most people struggle with balancing these levels. While total and LDL cholesterol levels should be kept low, having higher HDL cholesterol can give some protection against developing heart-related illnesses such as heart attacks and strokes.
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Medication May Be Needed
For some people, diet and lifestyle changes are not enough. High blood cholesterol levels often have a genetic component. Some people inherit altered genes that cause high cholesterol and this cannot usually be changed sufficiently by lifestyle or diet.
If you are at risk of coronary heart disease and your LDL cholesterol level doesnt drop after scrupulous attention to diet, your doctor may recommend medications to force your blood LDL levels down. Cell cholesterol levels, however, remain normal, so lowering blood cholesterol has no effect on most cell metabolic processes.
Some people get muscle aches from statins, which are the most commonly used medication to lower blood cholesterol. However, diet and exercise will still be important, even if you are taking medication. Your doctor may also refer you to a specialist who treats cardiovascular disease.
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.
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Cholesterol Control: Chicken Vs Beef
Chicken and beef are both staples of many diet, and they can be prepared and seasoned in thousands of different ways.
LDL cholesterol contributes to plaque that can clog and narrow your arteries, which can break off as clots. This narrowing and these clots can lead to a heart attack or stroke.
Since your body produces all of the LDL cholesterol it needs, eating foods that are high in saturated fats, like fatty meats, can increase the amount of LDL cholesterol that your body makes.
But that in no way means fried chicken with the skin on is a better choice than a grilled sirloin steak at least if youre talking about heart health.
The Risks Of High Cholesterol
Managing your cholesterol levels is important because high cholesterol can lead to a serious condition known as atherosclerosis. This can happen when high cholesterol is left untreated, causing plaque to build up in your arteries.
Over time, plaque build-up can narrow your arteries, limiting blood flow. This can even put you at risk for developing blood clots. Atherosclerosis also puts you at risk for life-threatening complications like a stroke, heart attack, chronic kidney disease, peripheral vascular disease, and angina.
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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
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.
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Dietary Tips To Avoid Cholesterol
The most important thing you can do to reduce your cholesterol level is to maintain a healthy lifestyle. You should try to:
- Increase the amount and variety of fresh fruit, vegetables and wholegrain foods you have each day.
- Choose low or reduced-fat milk, yoghurt and other dairy products or have added calcium soy drinks.
- Choose lean meat .
- Limit fatty meats, including sausages and salami, and choose leaner sandwich meats like turkey breast or cooked lean chicken.
- Have fish at least twice a week.
- Replace butter and dairy blends with polyunsaturated margarines.
- Include foods in your diet that are rich in soluble fibre and healthy fats, such as nuts, legumes and seeds.
- Limit cheese and ice cream to twice a week.
Other storage fats that are transported in blood lipoproteins include triglycerides. When present in high concentrations in the blood, this fat is also a risk for heart attack. Some foods will affect the cholesterol level or the triglyceride level and some will affect both.
What Is High Cholesterol
Cholesterol levels are measured in millimoles per litre in the UK. The government recommends the general population aims for under 5 mmol/L of total cholesterol levels, but three out of five adults in the UK have levels of 5 mmol/L or above.
Your GP will explain your cholesterol readings and what they mean in terms of your future health – mainly whether you have a high, moderate or low risk of developing cardiovascular disease within the next 10 years.
After the test, you may just be given the TC figure, but ask your surgery for your full results and keep a note of them to compare against future checks.
Heres a quick guide to understanding your cholesterol levels.
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