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Cholesterol: Know Your Numbers and What They Mean

cholesterol numbers

Everyone knows that you want to have good cholesterol levels, but what does that really mean?

September is National Cholesterol Education month, so now is a good time to find out!

At the age of 20, you should start having his or her cholesterol checked once every five years. A blood test called a lipoprotein panel can show whether you're at risk for coronary heart disease by looking at substances in your blood that carry cholesterol.

What a Blood Test Tells You about Your Cholesterol

This blood test is done after a 9-to-12-hour fast (no eating) and gives information about the following:

  • Total cholesterol–a measure of the total amount of cholesterol in your blood, including low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol and high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol
  • LDL (bad) cholesterol–the main source of cholesterol buildup and blockage in the arteries
  • HDL (good) cholesterol–HDL helps remove cholesterol from your arteries
  • Triglycerides–another form of fat in your blood that can raise your risk for heart disease

When you hear the term “bad cholesterol” it’s usually referring to LDL cholesterol, so it’s typically the one that’s paid the most attention.

LDL Cholesterol Factors

So what factors affect your LDL cholesterol?

  • Smoking cigarettes
  • Certain foods
  • High blood pressure (140/90 mmHg or higher, or on blood pressure medication)
  • Low HDL (less than 40 mg/dL)
  • Family history of heart disease (early onset at 55 for men, 65 for women)
  • Age (45 or older for men, 55 for women)

In order to avoid it, it’s important to understand bad cholesterol levels — what they are, and what they mean for your heart health.

Cholesterol is waxy substance your body makes to help digest foods, make vitamin D, and make hormones. As we mentioned earlier, there are two different types of cholesterol, LDL (bad), and HDL (good). When you have high levels of LDL, it tends to build up in your arteries. HDL, on the other hand, is good because it will carry cholesterol from other parts of your body to your liver, where they are dispelled. It’s important to have a healthy balance of the two, with high HDL levels, and low LDL levels, so that your system balances out nicely.

Stay balanced by taking care of your body and all other aspects of wellness.

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