Believe it or not, your body needs cholesterol. Your body uses cholesterol to build healthy cells, but having too much of this waxy substance can increase your risk of heart disease.
Too much cholesterol leads to fatty deposits inside your blood vessels. Over time, these deposits build up and can block your vessels, making it hard for blood to travel around your body. This can lead to heart attacks or strokes, so it’s important to monitor your cholesterol levels, especially if you have a family history or high cholesterol.
The bad news is that high cholesterol doesn’t have any symptoms. The only way to know is to have your blood tested. Most doctors will order this blood test with your annual wellness exam blood work, so ask your doctor for your numbers.
What do the numbers mean?
Your doctor will give you a total cholesterol number. This number is made up of two parts., or types of cholesterol, LDL and HDL.
LDL stands for Low-desnsity Lipoprotein. This is the “bad” type of cholesterol. This is what builds up in your arteries and can make them narrow which causes heart issues.
HDL stands for High-density Lipoprotein. This is the “good” type of cholesterol. This type of cholesterol actually picks up excess cholesterol and takes it back to your liver.
As we age, our bodies produce more cholesterol, so it is important to monitor your levels at a young age and take preventative measures sooner rather than later.
Total Cholesterol Levels:
- Normal = less than 200 mg/dl.
- Borderline = 200 and 239 mg/dl
- High = 240 mg/dl or more
- Normal = less than 100 mg/dl
- Borderline = 100 – 129 mg/dl
- High = 160-189 mg/dl
- Very High = 190 mg/dl or more
- Optimal = 60 mg/dl or more
- Low = 41 – 59 mg/dl
- Major Risk = 40 mg/dl or less
We can’t control our genetics, but there are things you can do to keep our cholesterol levels in check and even prevent high cholesterol in some cases.
To help prevent high cholesterol or reduce your cholesterol levels you can:
- Eat a low-salt diet that includes many fruits, vegetables, and whole grains
- Limit the amount of animal fat you use and use good fats in moderation
- Lose extra pounds and maintain a healthy weight
- Quit smoking
- Exercise on most days of the week for at least 30 minutes
- Drink alcohol in moderation, if at all
When these lifestyle changes aren’t enough, there are medications available to help. Your doctor will help you find the best medicine or combination of medicines for your situation, but some of the available options are:
- Statins – Block a substance your liver needs to produce cholesterol and may help your body reabsorbs some of the cholesterol built-up in your arteries.
- Bile-acid-binding Resins – YOur liver uses cholesterol to make bile acids which are used in digestion. This type of medication binds to these acids. Your body thinks it needs to make more bile acid so it uses up more of your excess cholesterol.
- Cholesterol Absorption Inhibitors – Cholesterol from the food you eat is absorbed in your small intestine and then released into your blood. This type of drug limits the absorption of dietary cholesterol.
- Injectable Medications – These are a relatively new type of drug that helps your liver absorb more LDL.