Most annual physicals for adults include a blood test, called a lipid panel, to check cholesterol levels. If the results indicate high cholesterol numbers, lifestyle changes may be required to reduce health risks, and if those changes don’t work a lipid-lowering statin drug may be necessary.
Cholesterol Blood Test Results
If your cholesterol numbers aren’t where they should be, your doctor will want to discuss the results of your blood test with you and make recommendations for lifestyle changes. A report of high cholesterol should not be ignored, because maintaining healthy levels of cholesterol in your blood is critical for good health and longevity. Unhealthy cholesterol levels can lead to atherosclerosis, the buildup of plaques in your arteries. unhealthy cholesterol levels can lead to atherosclerosis, the buildup of plaques in your arteries.
The Four Numbers You Must Understand about Cholesterol
There are four important numbers obtained from a cholesterol blood test, and when discussing cholesterol, it is important to understand that there are “good” and “bad” cholesterol. . The levels reflected below are based on general guidelines and measured in mg/dl:
1. Total cholesterol – This number is determined by applying a formula using LDL, HDL and triglyceride numbers. The optimum level is below 200, borderline high is 200-239, and anything above 240 is considered high.
2. LDL cholesterol – This is considered the “bad” cholesterol as it can build in your arteries, making them hard and narrow. 100 to 129 is considered near ideal, 130-159 borderline high, and above 160 high.
3. HDL cholesterol – This “good” cholesterol mops up excess cholesterol in the blood and delivers it back to your liver. The best level is 60 and above, with anything below 40 for men or 50 for women considered poor.
4. Triglycerides – This represents a certain type of fat in the blood and is essential when assessing cardiovascular risk. Below 150 is best and above 200 is considered high.
The combination of your cholesterol levels and your previous medical history will determine whether your doctor feels cholesterol lowering drugs are necessary. If your levels are border-line high and risks low, he may first recommend changes to diet and exercise.
Ways to Improve Cholesterol Levels
MayoClinic.com outlines the lifestyle changes required to reduce cholesterol in their article, “Top 5 lifestyle changes to reduce cholesterol” as follows:
1, Lose Weight – Doctors claim that losing even ten pounds can make a difference.
2. Eat heart-healthy foods – Eat leaner meats, low-fat dairy, and healthier fats such as olive, peanut and canola oil. Eliminate all trans-fats (hydrogenated oil) and limit foods high in cholesterol (typically organ meats, egg yolks and whole milk products). Eat more whole grains, vegetables and fruit. Add foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, avocados, almonds and ground flaxseeds.
3. Exercise daily – Moderate exercise can help to raise your HDL, or good cholesterol. The American Heart Association recommends 30 minutes of exercise a day to reduce the risk of heart disease.
4. Quit Smoking – Quitting can improve your HDL cholesterol level. In their article, Mayoclinic.com gives us this encouragement about smoking, “Just 20 minutes after quitting, your blood pressure decreases. Within 24 hours, your risk of a heart attack decreases. Within one year, your risk of heart disease is half that of a smoker. Within 15 years, your risk of heart disease is similar to someone who never smoked.”
5. Drink in Moderation – Too much alcohol can lead to various health risks. Mayo recommends keeping it to one drink per day for women and no more than two for men.
What About Supplements for Lowering Cholesterol?
The American Heart Association recommends dietary changes over supplements to improve heart health. However, MayoClinic.com provides a list of supplements to consider for lowering cholesterol: “Cholesterol-lowering supplements: Lower your numbers without prescription medication”. Web MD indicates that garlic and garlic supplements have been shown in studies to lower cholesterol, and in some cases Niacin can be an alternative to Statin drugs. In all situations, it is advised to follow your doctors directions and discuss these non-drug ideas with your doctor to determine if they might be effective for you.
Drugs.com’s Cholesterol Center “High Blood Cholesterol”
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American Heart Association
WebMD – Understanding Cholesterol – Diagnosis and Treatment