The body need cholesterol to operate and it is derived from two main sources. It comes from the foods we eat and the body itself produces cholesterol. Your liver is mainly responsible for synthesizing cholesterol and releasing it into the bloodstream.
While we require a certain amount of cholesterol to function, too much of it in our blood can be deadly. Poor diet can lead to high cholesterol levels, causing plaque to build up in the arteries. When this occurs, the risk for heart disease goes up drastically. This can cause heart attack and stroke.
What Do the Numbers Mean?
Blood tests known as lipid profiles are taken to determine your cholesterol levels. The lipid profile generates numbers based on measurements of:
· Total Cholesterol
· High Density Lipoproteins (HDL)
· Low Density Lipoproteins (LDL)
This is the “good” kind of cholesterol because it can help prevent heart disease. High density lipoproteins can flush LDL out of your blood, preventing build up from occurring in the arteries. You can increase the HDL levels by eating healthy fats like those contained in fish and nuts. Exercise and medication can also raise your HDL levels.
Low density lipoproteins is the kind of cholesterol you don’t want to have high levels of. It’s known to most as “bad cholesterol.” LDL builds up in your arteries, causing them to narrow, which increases your risk for a myriad of heart conditions. Keeping your LDL levels low is key to heart health.
After your blood test, your doctor will help you come up with a strategy to lower your LDL numbers if necessary. This strategy will typically involve changes in your diet, regular physical exercise and possibly medication. If you LDL levels are in the neighborhood of 190 or high, you are facing a high risk for heart conditions. Your doctor will recommend immediate intervention.
These are fats that are produced in your body. Your body will take fats ingested through your diet and use them to create triglycerides. High triglyceride levels suggest a higher risk for heart disease. If your triglyceride level is under 150 that is considered normal. 150 to 199 is mildly high and anything over 200 is considered high.
The total cholesterol is a measurement that includes 20% of triglycerides, LDL and HDL. Triglycerides + HDL + LDL = Total cholesterol. Your doctor will use this number to determine your overall risk for heart disease.
The result of your lipoprotein test will come in the form of numbers. It can be confusing to decipher what the blood test means by the numbers alone. It’s important to realize that the numbers themselves cannot help you predict the risk for heart disease.
The numbers are part of a larger equation that factors in your age, body type, blood pressure, any medications you are on and your lifestyle habits. A doctor can use all of these variables to get an idea of your condition. With this information the doctor can decide which course of treatment will benefit you the most.
It’s recommended that people 18 years of age or older get fasting cholesterol tests once every 5 years. This test will give you all the important numbers needed to determine your health risks. Older adults should have their levels checked more frequently. Speak with your doctor about ways to lower your cholesterol today.