For the millions of Americans diagnosed with high cholesterol, it's
important to understand these medical terms: total
cholesterol, LDL and HDL cholesterol, and
triglycerides…. It's also vital to compare your cholesterol
test results with the goal levels for each key cholesterol measure:
if your levels don't meet the medical goals, talk with your doctor
about creating a (hopefully prescription-free) cholesterol
What is Cholesterol, Anyway?
According to the National Institute of Health's article,
cholesterol is "a waxy, fat-like substance that's found in all
cells of the body. Your body needs some cholesterol to make
hormones, vitamin D, and substances that help you digest foods.
Your body makes all the cholesterol it needs. However, cholesterol
also is found in some of the foods you eat."
What is LDL Cholesterol and HDL Cholesterol?
A total cholesterol 'score' is broken into two different types of
cholesterol: LDL and HDL. Interestingly, though two kinds of
cholesterol are frequently measured and discussed, it turns out
that there's only one waxy substance called cholesterol. What's
different is the protein that carries the cholesterol through
blood. Some cholesterol travels through the blood attached to
low-density lipoproteins (LDL) while some travels as part of
high-density lipoproteins (HDL). Thus, total cholesterol is often
broken out and discussed as either LDL or HDL cholesterol.
LDL cholesterol is often referred to as "bad" cholesterol because
too much LDL cholesterol can cause plaque to build on the artery
walls. The more LDL cholesterol there is in the blood, the greater
the risk of heart disease.
HDL cholesterol is often called "good" cholesterol because it
delivers cholesterol to the liver, which removes it from the body.
A higher HDL cholesterol level is good; if HDL cholesterol is low
that increases the risk of heart disease.
What Are Triglycerides?
In a fasting cholesterol blood test, in addition to Total
Cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and HDL cholesterol, a third "type"
of cholesterol is reported: triglycerides. Triglycerides are a type
of fat found in blood, and high triglycerides can also increase
heart disease risk.
What Are Healthy Cholesterol Targets?
To minimize the risk of heart disease, there are goals or targets
for each of the major cholesterol measures:
TOTAL CHOLESTEROL: at or under 200 mg/dL (milligrams (mg) of
cholesterol per decileter (dL) of blood). Borderline high is
200-239 and high is 240 and over.
LDL (bad) CHOLESTEROL: at or under 100 mg/dL is the goal.
Borderline high is 130-159 and high is over 160.
HDL (good) CHOLESTEROL: at or higher than 60 mg/dL is best. A score
lower than than 40 is considered a heart disease risk factor.
TRIGLYCERIDES: normal is under 150. Borderline high is 150-199, and
high is 200 or over.
According to the CDC, roughly 30 million Americans age 45 and over
take statins to lower their cholesterol. That's about 25% of the
adult population being medicated, even though statins can have
serious side effects including liver damage and muscle inflammation
If your cholesterol levels don't meet these "goals" be sure to
discuss with your doctor. For those without other heart disease
risk factors, you may be able to lower your cholesterol with
lifestyle changes like diet and exercise. (MORE)