Post Holiday Check up: Cholesterol

After a month full of parties and dinners, you should consider to have a cholesterol check up. You might need to decide a low cholesterol diet as your new year’s resolution.

Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance made in the liver and found in certain foods, such as food from animals, like dairy products (whole milk), eggs and meat.

The body needs some cholesterol in order to function properly. The body’s cell walls, or membranes, need cholesterol and the body uses cholesterol to produce hormones, vitamin D, and the bile acids that help to digest fat, but, the body needs only a small amount of cholesterol to meet its needs.

When too much cholesterol is present, plaque (a thick, hard deposit) may form in the body’s arteries narrowing the space for blood to flow to the heart or brain. Over time, this buildup causes atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) which can lead to heart disease or stroke.

When not enough oxygen-carrying blood reaches the heart chest pain, called angina, can result. If the blood supply to a portion of the heart is completely cut off by total blockage of a coronary artery, the result is a heart attack, in the brain it will result in a stroke.

Understanding Cholesterol Numbers

Everyone over the age of 20 should get their cholesterol levels measured at least once every 5 years. The test that is performed is a blood test called a lipoprotein profile.

Results of your blood test will come in the form of numbers. Here is how to interpret your cholesterol numbers:

LDL Cholesterol

LDL cholesterol can build up on the walls of your arteries and increase your chances of getting heart disease. That is why LDL cholesterol is referred to as “bad cholesterol”. The lower your LDL cholesterol number, the better it is for your health. This explains what the numbers below mean.

  • Less than 100 mg/dL : Optimal for people with heart disease or diabetes
  • 100 – 129 mg/dL : Near or above optimal
  • 130 – 159 mg/dL : Borderline high
  • 160 – 189 mg/dL : High
  • 190 mg/dL and above : Very high

If you have heart disease or blood vessel disease, you should try to get your LDL cholesterol below 70. For people with diabetes or other multiple risk factors for heart disease, the treatment goal is to reach an LDL of less than 100.

HDL Cholesterol

HDL cholesterol protects against heart disease by taking the “bad” cholesterol out of your blood and keeping it from building up in your arteries, that’s why it is called the “good cholesterol”. See below what the numbers mean.

  • Less than 40 mg/dL : Low (higher risk or heart disease and stroke)
  • 40 to 59 mg/dL : The higher the better
  • 60 mg/dL and above : Hig (lower risk of heart disease and stroke)

Triglycerides

Triglycerides are the chemical form in which most fat exists in food and the body. It is also a major energy source. A high triglyceride level (150 mg/dL or higher) has been linked to a higher risk of heart disease and stroke.

  • Less than 150 mg/dL : Normal
  • 150 – 199 mg/dL : Borderline high
  • 200 – 499 mg/dL : High
  • 500 mg/dl and above : Very High

Total Cholesterol

Your total blood cholesterol is a measure of LDL cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, and triglycerides. These numbers can show how your risk of heart attack and stroke are:

  • Less than 200 mg/dL : Desirable (lower risk)
  • ·200 – 239 mg/dL : Borderline high (higher risk)
  • 240 mg/dL and above : High (more than twice the risk as desirable level)

What Factors Affect Cholesterol Levels?

A variety of factors can affect your cholesterol levels. They include:

  • Diet. Saturated fat and cholesterol in the food you eat increase cholesterol levels. Try to reduce the amount of saturated fat and cholesterol in your diet. Read our previous article at www.bimcbali.com for more information.
  • Weight. In addition to being a risk factor for heart disease, being overweight can also increase your cholesterol. Losing weight can help lower your LDL and total cholesterol levels, as well as increase HDL cholesterol.
  • Exercise. Regular exercise can lower LDL cholesterol and raise HDL cholesterol. You should try to be physically active for 30 minutes on most days.
  • Age and Gender. As we get older, cholesterol levels rise. Before menopause, women tend to have lower total cholesterol levels than men of the same age. After menopause, however, 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.
  • Other causes. Certain medications and medical conditions can cause high cholesterol.

How Can I Lower My Cholesterol and Reduce My Risk of Heart Disease?

Here are some simple guidelines the American Heart Association recommends:

  • Eat low cholesterol foods. The American Heart Association recommends that you limit your average daily cholesterol intake to less than 300 milligrams. If you have heart disease, limit your daily intake to less than 200 milligrams. People can significantly lower their dietary cholesterol intake by keeping their dietary intake of saturated fats low and by avoiding foods that are high in saturated fat and that contain substantial amounts of dietary cholesterol. Besides that, the daily diet should be:

o Eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables every day.
o Eat six or more servings of cereals, breads, pasta and other whole-grain products.
o Eat fish, poultry without skin and leaner cuts of meat instead of fatty ones.
o Eat fat-free or 1% milk dairy products rather than whole-milk dairy products.

  • Quit smoking. Smoking lowers HDL (“good”) cholesterol levels. This trend can be reversed if you quit smoking. Read our previous article about quitting this habit at www.bimcbali.com
  • Exercise. Exercise increases HDL cholesterol in some people. Enjoy 30–60 minutes of vigorous activities on most or all days of the week and maintain a healthy weight.
  • Take medication as prescribed by your doctor. Sometimes making changes to your diet and increasing exercise is not enough to bring your cholesterol down. You may also need to take a cholesterol lowering drug.
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