What is Cholesterol and How Can You Improve Your Cholesterol Levels

            Cholesterol levels are a common topic when it comes to discussions about health but do you really know that much about it? Let’s explore some basic knowledge you should know about cholesterol and how you can improve your cholesterol numbers.

            Cholesterol is a lipid or fat which is stored in the blood and is necessary for your body to function. Your body makes cholesterol in the liver and you also consume it through the foods that you eat. Only foods that come from animals contain cholesterol. Some common food sources of cholesterol include milk, cheese, butter, lard, and meats. If your cholesterol numbers are poor it could put you at risk for heart disease, heart attack, stroke, diabetes, vascular diseases, and hypertension.

What Do Those Cholesterol Numbers Mean?

            Cholesterol levels are checked by a blood test which is often called a lipid test or lipid panel. This test has several components within it, including total cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and triglycerides.

  • Total Cholesterol is the measure of all the cholesterol within your blood
  • HDL stands for high-density lipoprotein. This is often referred to as good cholesterol
  • LDL stands for low-density lipoprotein. This is often referred to as bad cholesterol
  • Triglycerides are fat in the blood

Bad Cholesterol Versus Good Cholesterol

            High-density lipoprotein which is often called HDL or good cholesterol should be equal to or greater than 60 mg/dL. When HDL levels are at 60 mg/dL or greater it decreases the risk of heart disease.

            Low-density lipoprotein which is often called LDL or bad cholesterol should be less than 100 mg/dL. The reason why LDL is referred to as bad cholesterol is that it causes plaque to build up inside arteries and increases your risk of heart disease.

Lowering Cholesterol With Medications and/or Lifestyle Modifications

            If you have poor cholesterol levels, treatment will depend on several factors. Usually, lifestyle modifications such as diet and exercise or medication are recommended. Statins are the type of medication that is the most well-known for treating high cholesterol. Some available statin medications include Atorvastatin, Simvastatin, Pravastatin, and Rosuvastatin.

            Making diet and exercise changes can help prevent and manage high cholesterol. To improve your diet, avoid foods with a lot of saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol in them. Focus on consuming more fruits, vegetables, fish, and whole grains. Exercising regularly can help lower bad cholesterol levels and raise good cholesterol levels.

Key Takeaways

            Cholesterol is a lipid in the blood that is needed to live. Cholesterol is made by the liver and is consumed through food. Getting your cholesterol checked is an important part of maintaining health. There are different types of cholesterol which are LDL, HDL, and triglycerides. Have your healthcare provider interpret cholesterol results and make recommendations based on your results. If medication is needed, statins are the most commonly used type of medication to treat high cholesterol. Following a healthy diet and exercising regularly are important to preventing and maintaining cholesterol levels.