This post was originally run last year. It is full of great information, enjoy.
September is National Cholesterol Education Month, a good time to get your blood cholesterol checked and take steps to lower it if it is high.
High blood cholesterol affects over 65 million Americans. It is a serious condition that increases your risk for heart disease. The higher your cholesterol level, the greater the risk. You can have high cholesterol and not know it. Lowering cholesterol levels that are too high lessens your risk for developing heart disease and reduces the chance of having a heart attack or dying of heart disease.
High blood cholesterol itself does not cause symptoms, so it is important to find out what your cholesterol numbers are. Lowering cholesterol is important for everyone – younger, middle age, and older adults; women and men; and people with or without heart disease.
What do Cholesterol Numbers mean?
Beginning at age 20, everyone should have their cholesterol measured at least once every 5 years. A blood test called a “lipoprotein profile” will give you information about your:
LDL (bad) cholesterol – the main source of cholesterol buildup and blockage in the arteries
HDL (good) cholesterol- helps keep cholesterol from building up in the arteries
Triglycerides – another form of fat in your blood
If a complete lipoprotein profile is not possible, knowing your total cholesterol and HDL cholesterol can give you a general idea about your cholesterol levels. If your total cholesterol is 200 mg/dL* or more or if your HDL is less than 40 mg/dL, you will need to have a lipoprotein profile done. Compare your numbers to these:
Total Cholesterol Level
Less than 200 mg/dL – Desirable level
200-239 mg/dL – Borderline high
240 mg/dL and above – High
LDL Cholesterol Level
Less than 100 mg/dL – Optimal level
100-129 mg/dL – Near/above optimal
130-159 mg/dL – Borderline high
160-189 mg/dL – High
190 mg/dL and above – Very high*Cholesterol levels are measured in milligrams (mg) of cholesterol per deciliter (dL) of blood.
HDL (good) cholesterol protects against heart disease, so for HDL, higher numbers are better. A level less than 40 mg/dL is low and considered a major risk factor because it increases your risk for developing heart disease. HDL levels of 60 mg/dL or more help lower your risk for heart disease.
Triglycerides can also raise heart disease risk. Levels that are borderline high (150-199 mg/dL) or high (200 mg/dL or more) may need treatment in some people.
What Affects Cholesterol Levels?
Many things affect cholesterol levels. These are things you can do something about:
- Diet. Saturated fat and cholesterol in the food you eat make your blood cholesterol level go up. Saturated fat is the main culprit, but cholesterol in foods also matters. Reducing the amount of saturated fat and cholesterol in your diet helps lower your blood cholesterol level.
- Weight. Being overweight is a risk factor for heart disease. It also tends to increase your cholesterol. Losing weight can help lower your LDL and total cholesterol levels, as well as raise your HDL and lower your triglyceride levels.
- Physical Activity. Not being physically active is a risk factor for heart disease. Regular physical activity can help lower LDL (bad) cholesterol and raise HDL (good) cholesterol levels. It also helps you lose weight. You should try to be physically active for 30 minutes on most, if not all, days.
Things you cannot do anything about can also affect cholesterol levels. These include:
- Age and Gender. As we all get older, our cholesterol levels rise. Before menopause, women have lower total cholesterol levels than men of the same age. After menopause, women’s LDL levels tend to rise.
- Heredity. Your genes partly determine how much cholesterol your body makes. High blood cholesterol can run in families.
For more information on blood cholesterol, including assessing your risk of developing heart disease or having a heart attack, check out the following:
“Live Healthier, Live Longer” – information on cholesterol lowering.
“National Cholesterol Education Month” – resources for people of all ethnic backgrounds, heart healthy recipes, community group education programs, and a must read Guide to Lowering Your Cholesterol with Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes (TLC).
Information provided by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.
ParentYourParents.com – Helping You Help Your Parents