Cholesterol By the Numbers
There is good cholesterol and there is bad cholesterol, like just about everything else. Ideally, we want to increase the good cholesterol and lower the bad. It is often easier said than done since most of us are having so much trouble.
Cholesterol is a naturally-occurring compound in the body. It is manufactured by the liver. But, more cholesterol is needed and that comes from the foods that we eat. In the body, cholesterol is responsible for helping to create some hormones and also for maintaining the integrity of cellular membranes. It is needed, but not always in the form that we introduce in our body from food.
There are three types of cholesterol numbers we need to pay attention to.
* LDL – this stands for “low density lipoprotein.” This form of cholesterol is termed the “bad” type. It is a sticky form that mostly comes from food. Because it is sticky it attaches to blood vessel walls, narrowing the opening through which blood has to pass. This leads to an increase in blood pressure. Numbers: <= 100 is optimal, 100-129 is near optimal, 130-159 is borderline high, 160-189 is high.
* HDL – this stands for “high density lipoprotein.” This is the “good” form of cholesterol. It protects the heart against heart disease by keeping the vessel walls clean, preventing LDL plaque from sticking. When it can’t clog up the vessels, there is less chance of developing high blood pressure, vascular disease and stroke. Numbers: < 40 or 50 is low, > 70 is optimal.
* Triglycerides – these are not technically a type of cholesterol. Actually they are a type of fat that exists in our food and thus enters our bodies when we eat it. They contribute to the level of unhealthy fats in the body and help the LDL. Their presence has been linked to coronary artery disease. They work with LDL cholesterol to increase the incidence of embolisms that lead to strokes and heart attacks. Therefore it is important to keep an eye on them. Numbers: < 150 is normal level, 150-199 is borderline high, 200-499 is high.
All three numbers figure into your total cholesterol number. Doctors recommend that the total number be no more than 200 for all three with the HDL being high and the other two being as low as possible.
If you still don’t understand ask your doctor to help explain them to you. It’s important to keep cholesterol in check and having the right information is a good place to start that climb up the hill to a healthier body.