Cholesterol – Understanding the Numbers

Monday, February 25, 2013 3:50 PM comments (0)

High-CholesterolRoutine blood work can be done to test whether or not you have high cholesterol. The challenge for many lies in determining what the numbers mean and what risks you may be at for developing other health conditions, including heart disease.

This blood work measures three different components:

  • LDL (low-density lipoproteins), otherwise known as “bad” cholesterol
  • HDL (high-density lipoproteins) or “good” cholesterol 
  • Triglycerides

The general standard for healthy levels state your LDL should optimally be below 100, HDL should be above 40 for men and above 50 for women, and your triglycerides value should stay below 150. So what can you do if your levels are a little high?

Jeffrey Marogil, MD, Cardiologist at NorthShore, offers the following suggestions for keeping your cholesterol in check:

  • Get regular aerobic exercise and work at losing excess weight. Even losing a small amount of extra weight, such as five to 10 pounds can be a big help. If you aren’t sure what diet is best, seek a registered dietitian to get you off on the right foot.
  • Avoid all trans fats. These are artificial fats that your body is not designed to handle. Also, be sure to read labels and avoid items that include partially hydrogenated oils, as these contain some trans fats.
  • Learn which fats are “good” fats. When trying to lose weight you shouldn’t cut out all fats— the body needs fat and some (like the Omega 3 fatty acids) are helpful for optimal cholesterol levels. A good rule of thumb to follow is to replace some of your carbohydrates with vegetables when trying to lose weight.
  • Know your family history and other risk factors. Medical problems such as diabetes, hypertension, sleep apnea, smoking and obesity, along with a family history of high cholesterol or coronary artery disease, can be reasons for getting screened more frequently.

Do you know what your cholesterol levels are? Have you made any changes in your diet or lifestyle to reduce them?

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