Heart disease is the number one killer of men and women in the United States. Each year, more than a million Americans have a heart attack, and nearly half of them die from heart disease. A major risk factor that contributes to heart disease is elevated cholesterol. Cholesterol is a sticky fat-like substance in our blood that can build up on the walls of arteries. Too much build up of cholesterol deposits can lead to hardening and narrowing of the arteries which leads to restricted blood flow. If oxygen-rich blood cannot reach the heart due to a blockage, the result can be a heart attack.
High cholesterol has no noticeable symptoms so many people are unaware that their levels are too high. It's important to know your numbers! Finding out your cholesterol levels is the first step in reducing your chance developing heart disease, stroke and even sudden death. Check with your healthcare provider on getting a simple blood test to show you the breakdown of your cholesterol levels – including your total cholesterol, LDL, HDL, Triglyerides, and cholesterol/HDL ratio.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends that individuals 20 years and older have their cholesterol levels measured every 5 years. This frequency increases with any history of abnormal levels or with a family history of heart disease or stroke.
Here are the cholesterol value ranges as determined by the National Institutes of Health.
Less than 200 mg/dL—desirable
200-239 mg/dL—borderline high
240 mg/dL and above—high
LDL Cholesterol (Bad cholesterol, and the main source of build-up and blockage in blood vessels)
Less than 100mg/dL—optimal
100-129 mg/dL—near optimal
130-159 mg/dL—borderline high
190 mg/dL and above—very high
HDL Cholesterol (Good cholesterol that can help protect against heart disease)
40 mg/dL and above—desirable for males
50 mg/dL and above—desirable for females
Triglyerides (another fatty substance in your blood that increases your risk of heart disease)
500 and above—very high
Treating high cholesterol is extremely important in preventing heart disease. The focus is on risk factor reduction. TLC, or Therapeutic Lifestyle Change, is the first step to keep your cholesterol levels in check. A cholesterol-lowering diet, regular exercise, and weight management is critical for anyone with abnormal levels or a family history of heart disease.
Coaching you to Feel Better and Live Longer,
Jody Anderson, RN, CHC
Succeed Health, LLC-Algoma