We get it. Cholesterol is not necessarily a fun topic. But it is an important component to your overall health. So we wrote this article to help you understand what the fuzz about cholesterol is all about.
To begin with, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that you get your cholesterol checked at least once every five years once you are over age 20. Some people will need cholesterol checks more often depending on general health and lifestyle (exercise and dietary habits, for example). Most annual visits to your doctor include a cholesterol check. Cholesterol checks are done by drawing some blood which the lab and your doctor will use to look at your lipoprotein profile. What the heck is a lipoprotein profile? Read on.
What is Cholesterol? What Are Triglycerides?
Cholesterol is not necessarily a bad term. Cholesterol actually helps your body build cells, tissue and hormones. It also acts as a nerve protector and as an aid to your digestion. Cholesterol is made by your body, primarily in your liver. However, cholesterol is also found in animal sources like meats and dairies. When you eat diets high in fat, your liver produces more cholesterol than you may need. The key is to maintain proper ratios of everything in our bodies. Cholesterol and triglycerides are lipids (which is another word for “fat”). Neither cholesterol nor triglycerides are soluble in blood. Having too much of these can be harmful to your health.
Triglycerides come from the foods we eat (including sugars) and the beer and alcohol we drink. Basically your body converts any calories it does not use into triglycerides. Triglycerides then store and release energy. So if you take in more calories (which become stored triglycerides) than you burn from activity (through energy) your doctor may be advising you to get off that couch and exercise.
HDL cholesterol is a type of cholesterol known as the “good” cholesterol. It helps your body remove, reuse and recycle LDL cholesterol, which is known as the “bad” cholesterol. Some LDL cholesterol (the “bad” one) can begin depositing itself along the walls of your arteries. Eventually, too much of these deposits can cause dangerous blockages to your arteries.
When your doctor orders a lab test to check your cholesterol, the lipoprotein profile results give your doctor information about your lipids (your fats in the blood). Your lipoprotein profile doesn’t just contain how much cholesterol you have, it contains information about
- Total cholesterol
- LDL: Low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, which is often called “bad” cholesterol
- HDL: High-density lipoprotein cholesterol, which is also called “good” cholesterol
The Mayo Clinic offers some general guidelines for adequate lipoprotein levels for adults 18 years and older. Consult your doctor for personal evaluation and guidelines.
Desirable: less than 200 mg/dL
Borderline high: 200-239 mg/dL
High: equal to or greater than 240 mg/dL
Normal: less than 150 mg/dL
Borderline high: 150-199 mg/dL
High: 200-499 mg/dL
Very high: equal to or greater than 500 mg/dL
LDL Cholesterol (the “bad” cholesterol)
Desirable: less than 100 mg/dL
Above Desirable: 100-129 mg/dL
Borderline high: 130-159 mg/dL
High: 160-189 mg/dL
Very high: equal to or greater than 190 mg/dL
HDL Cholesterol (the “good” cholesterol)
Males: equal to or greater than 40 mg/dL
Females: equal to or greater than 50 mg/dL
Statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- 5 million adults (31.7%)in the United States have high low-density lipoprotein (LDL), or “bad,” cholesterol.
- Fewer than1 out of every 3 adults (29.5%) with high LDL cholesterol has the condition under control.
- Less than half (48.1%)of adults with high LDL cholesterol are getting treatment to lower their levels.
- People with high total cholesterol have approximatelytwice the risk for heart disease as people with ideal levels.
- Nearly 31 million adult Americans have a total cholesterol level greater than 240 mg/dL.