Know your numbers: Why you should keep tabs on your cholesterol

October 07, 2020 | by Edward-Elmhurst Health
Categories: Healthy Driven Hearts

Cholesterol is a waxy substance that is carried in your blood stream. When kept in check, it’s not a bad thing. In fact, your body needs it to help build cells.

But too much cholesterol can put you at risk for heart disease and stroke.

Your liver makes all the cholesterol your body needs. But those levels can increase based on the food you eat.

Your cholesterol reading is broken up into three parts:

  • Low-density lipoproteins (LDL) is better known as the “bad” cholesterol.
  • High-density lipoproteins (HDL), also known as the “good” cholesterol, absorbs cholesterol and carries it back to your liver where it is flushed out of the body.
  • Triglycerides are the most common fat found in the body and store excess energy from your diet. High levels of triglycerides combined with high levels of LDL or low HDL can lead to fatty build up in your artery walls.

Your cholesterol reading is a mix of the levels of HDL, LDL and triglycerides found in your blood. A good reading is considered anything less than 200 mg/dl total — or, broken down by each component, a reading of less than 100 mg/dl for LDL, greater than or equal to 60 mg/dl for HDL and less than 150 mg/dl for triglycerides.

About 38 percent of American adults have high cholesterol (total blood cholesterol levels greater than 200 mg/dl), according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Making a few changes in your behaviors can help improve your cholesterol levels:

  • Eat a heart-healthy diet. Limit saturated fats (found in whole-fat dairy products and red meat) to 5 to 6 percent of your daily calories and eliminate trans fats that use partially hydrogenated vegetable oil. Your diet should focus on lean meats, poultry or fish as well as whole grains, fruits and vegetables. Limit sugary snacks or sodas. Check out 5 superfoods for your health.

  • Get moving. Exercising can help increase your high-density lipoproteins (the good cholesterol). The American Heart Association recommends an exercise regimen that includes 30 minutes of exercise, five days a week. Check out these heart-healthy exercises.

  • If you smoke, quit. Smoking lowers your HDL (the good stuff) and increases your risk for heart disease. Learn how to stick with your plan to quick smoking.

  • Lose excess weight. Being overweight can increase your LDL (the bad cholesterol) level. Obesity also increases your risk for heart disease, diabetes and other health issues. Losing as little as 10 percent of your body weight can help improve your high cholesterol levels, according to the American Heart Association. Edward Elmhurst Health offers a medical weight loss program to help you make the changes to lose the extra pounds.

  • Know your numbers.The CDC recommends adults have their cholesterol levels checked every four to six years. Children should have it checked once between the ages of 9 and 11 and again between the ages of 17 and 21, according to the CDC.

If your doctor prescribes medication to help control your cholesterol, be sure to take it as prescribed and talk to your doctor about any changes in your health.

When was the last time you had your cholesterol checked? Make an appointment with your physician for a check-up if you don’t have one on the books soon.

Your heart is in good hands when you choose us for cardiovascular care. Learn more about our high-quality heart care.

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