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Know Your Numbers: CHOLESTEROL

Updated: Sep 20, 2021

We all want a healthy heart and ensuring healthy levels of cholesterol — a fat, or lipid, carried through the bloodstream — is the first step.

There are 3 types of cholesterol you will likely see on your next blood test or lipid panel:

Total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol and HDL cholesterol. These numbers are important in showing the health of your arteries and heart.

Low-density lipoprotein or (LDL) cholesterol: aka your “lousy” cholesterol. The optimal LDL level is < 100 mg/dL. The lower the better with this one as LDL is the highest source of artery clogging plaque. Your LDL is greatly influenced by your diet so making healthier choices will lower this number.

High-density lipoprotein or (HDL) cholesterol: aka your healthy cholesterol. Higher is better with this one, with optimal HDL level being greater than 60 mg/dL. HDL cholesterol is important as it acts like a sponge clearing the bad LDL cholesterol out of your blood. Exercise will raise your HDL while smoking will lower it. Low HDL is a big red flag for pre-diabetes and we now know that low HDL is the real driver of most heart attacks and heart disease.

Total cholesterol: Should remain less than 200 mg/dl and is considered high risk above

240 mg/dl. While total cholesterol is important, improving your HDL and LDL are the keys to improving your total cholesterol. Risk factors for high cholesterol and low HDL cholesterol include lack of exercise, smoking, obesity and having diabetes or insulin resistance.

Despite what you might think, cholesterol isn’t all bad! Cholesterol is an essential fat for our bodies. It is used in cell membrane maintenance. It is a precursor to Vitamin D, which is made in the skin with sun light exposure. It is the precursor to many of the hormones of our body including the sex hormones such as estrogen and testosterone and adrenal hormones such as cortisol. Cholesterol is so important that our bodies do not rely on cholesterol from food sources alone. We actually manufacture about two-thirds of the cholesterol that we use in the liver.

When there is too much cholesterol in your blood is when it becomes a problem as it latches and builds up on the walls of your arteries. This buildup can slow or completely block blood from passing through resulting in heart attack or stroke.

In my next video we will talk about lifestyle changes you can make to improve your cholesterol naturally.

Until then, I wish you health and happiness.

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