Monday, September 24, 2012

Cholesterol – Know Your Numbers

cholesterol high cholesterol
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As the fall weather edges closer, special health months remind us of important aspects of our well being. September is National Cholesterol Education Month, a great time to learn about heart health. Keeping cholesterol levels in check gives us a healthier outlook for avoiding heart disease and stroke.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 out of 6 Americans has high cholesterol. I didn’t know it was so common until my dad told me he was cutting down on things like bacon and cheese. He said he had to keep an eye on his cholesterol. At that moment, I realized just how common cholesterol issues are for many families.

Heart disease and stroke are risks for people with high cholesterol. I'm proud of my dad for watching his dietary cholesterol. If you are concerned about cholesterol, check with your doctor. A simple blood test can give you your numbers. Ask questions and learn what you can do to control cholesterol. Simple changes in diet may be all you need. However, if your doctor feels you need medication to control cholesterol be sure to take them as prescribed.

What Is Cholesterol

If you are unfamiliar with cholesterol, you may wonder, what is cholesterol, what is high cholesterol or what is good cholesterol. The National Heart Lung and Blood Institute defines cholesterol as “a waxy, fat-like substance that’s found in all cells of the body.” High cholesterol may cause artery walls to have a buildup of cholesterol clogging the passageways. If blood flow is clogged or slowed, the patient is at a higher risk of heart disease and stroke.

Not all cholesterol is bad, though. High density lipoprotein (HDL) is considered good cholesterol while low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol is considered bad cholesterol. HDL cholesterol is good because it takes cholesterol from different parts of your body and transports it to the liver where it is removed from your body. LDL cholesterol is bad because it clogs the arteries, restricts the flow of blood, and puts you at risk for a variety of heart conditions, including coronary heart disease, atherosclerosis, carotid artery disease, and stroke, to name just a few.

However, there is new research that suggests that not all LDL cholesterol is bad or even a risk factor for heart disease.

Cholesterol Numbers

Ideal cholesterol numbers change with age. Normal cholesterol numbers for one person may be considered very high for another, often depending on their health. According to WebMD, an LDL level below 100 is ideal for most people

LDL Cholesterol:
  • Less than 100 – Optimal
  • 100-129 – Near optimal / above optimal
  • 130-159 – Borderline high
  • 160-189 – High
  • 190 and above – Very high
HDL Cholesterol:
  • 60 and above – High / optimal; lower risks
  • Less than 40 in men and less than 50 in women – Low; considered a risk factor for heart disease
Triglycerides are also important when measuring cholesterol. The chemical form of fat stored in the body, triglycerides are calories your body doesn’t need to convert to energy right away.

The Mayo Clinic shares the following numbers for triglycerides:
  • Normal: Less than 150 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) or less than 1.7 millimoles per L (mmol/L) 
  • Borderline high: 150 to 199 mg/dL (1.8 to 2.2 mmol/L)
  • High: 200 to 499 mg/dL (2.3 to 5.6 mmol/L) 
  • Very high: 500 mg/dL or above (5.7 mmol/L or above) 
The American Heart Association (AHA) advises that 100mg/dL or lower is preferred to lower risks and improve heart health.

Eating a healthier diet, watching your cholesterol, getting some fresh air and good exercise, and of course, taking any medications as prescribed by your doctor are all the things you can do to live a healthier life. The FamilyWize prescription drug card may help lower the cost of your prescriptions. On average, patients have saved 40% oh cholesterol drugs. Even if you have prescription coverage, FamilyWize may be able to help. Search for your prescription medication here and see how much you can save today.

If you have loved ones watching their cholesterol, as I do, keep their dietary requirements in mind when you invite them over for dinner. Be sure to take on the role of cheerleader, too, encouraging that great behavior when it comes to watching those cholesterol numbers.

Do your own research, read about new advances in medicine and health topics and talk to your doctor about what you are doing right and what you can be doing better, and differently, for your health.

By Kathryn M. D’Imperio
Contributing Writer

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