Heart disease and heart attacks are the number one killers of people in the United States. Heart disease kills approximately 630,000 men and women each year, and over a million people suffer from fatal heart attacks yearly. Those are scary numbers, but the good news is that you can take action now to ensure that you’re not part of those statistics.
Good cholesterol (HDL), bad cholesterol (LDL) and what those things have to do with your overall heart health, can be a little confusing. The main thing to remember is that bad cholesterol is a fat-like substance in your arteries, and if there is too much built up there, it constricts the blood flow to the heart muscle.
Your good cholesterol (HDL) and bad cholesterol (LDL) account for the total amount of cholesterol in your body. LDL, which stands for low-density lipoprotein, is the cholesterol that builds up on the walls of your arteries. HDL, or high-density lipoprotein, flows through the bloodstream and combats LDL, reducing the risk of heart disease or a heart attack. Too-low levels of HDL, however, can raise that risk. Triglycerides are types of lipids that are stored in your fat cells. Any calories that your body does not need to use right away after eating are converted into triglycerides.
So, what are good levels of each type of cholesterol? The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute breaks it down as follows:
- Total cholesterol: Less than 200 mg of cholesterol per deciliter (dL) of blood is the most desirable, while 200-239 mg/dL is “borderline high” and 240 and higher mg/dL is considered in the dangerous range.
- LDL cholesterol: Less than 100 mg/dL is the most desirable. 100-129 mg/dL is higher than desired but not dangerous. 130-159 mg/dL is considered to be “borderline high,” while 160-189 mg/dL is “high.” 190 mg/dL and above is very high and carries the most risk.
- HDL cholesterol: Any number below 40 mg/dL is considered a dangerous level.
- Triglycerides: The normal level is around 150 mg/dL, and high is considered from 200 to 499 mg/dL. Very high is 500 mg/dL and above.
To find out your numbers, consult with your doctor about receiving a lipid profile. It’s suggested that adults over the age of 20 get tested every five to six years. If you have mid-to-high levels, there are a number of actions you can take to get those lowered into the healthy range.
- Lose weight and maintain a healthy diet: Doing this has many benefits, and one of them is lowering your bad cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Eat whole foods like fruit, vegetables, grains like oatmeal and nuts. You should only consume lean meats if any, such as chicken, turkey or fish.
- Stop smoking: If you’re a smoker, that can cause a plethora of health issues, including high risk for heart disease. Smoking cigarettes lowers your good cholesterol (HDL), therefore clearing out cholesterol that combats the bad.
- Exercise: As well as giving you energy and making you feel overall better, physical activity will lower your bad cholesterol and triglycerides and raise your good cholesterol. Talk to your doctor about the perfect exercise regimen for your lifestyle.
Heart health is one of the most important things that you can give yourself in order to ensure that you live a long, fulfilling life. Dr. Gilbert F. Douglas, IV, D.O. and his staff are here to answer any questions you may have about cholesterol, heart health or diet and exercise plans. Click here to contact us, and get on your way to a better life.