Do you know what your cholesterol levels mean, or the difference between good and bad cholesterol? Clearing up your confusion and understanding the dangers of high cholesterol can help you keep your levels within a healthy range, lowering your chances of heart disease, heart attack, and stroke. Meanwhile, everyone 20 years and older should get a cholesterol test once every five years — it’s a simple blood test that your primary care physician can order to determine if you have high cholesterol levels.
1. Cholesterol is a bad thing. Your body needs cholesterol to function; it keeps cell membranes stable and aids in the production of certain hormones. Cholesterol only becomes a problem when too much of it circulates in the blood and builds up inside arteries, leading to a condition known as atherosclerosis. If too much cholesterol builds up, that artery becomes blocked, and a heart attack or stroke can occur.
2. Everyone should aim for the same cholesterol levels. “There’s not one particular number for everyone. According to Dr. Williard, People with no risk factors — such as being a smoker, having diabetes, or having high blood pressure — should try to get their levels of LDL, or “bad” cholesterol, under 160 mg/dL. High LDL cholesterol is a risk factor for heart disease. High levels of HDL, or “good” cholesterol, on the other hand, protect against heart disease and are desirable. However, if you have two or more risk factors for heart disease, your LDL cholesterol should be under 130 mg/dL. Those who already have heart disease, or those who have diabetes, should aim even lower, for LDL levels under 100 mg/dL.
3. High cholesterol is caused mostly by diet. The biggest factor in a person’s cholesterol levels is hereditary. The liver is supposed to remove excess cholesterol from the body, but genetics play a large part in its ability to keep cholesterol at a healthy level. For those people whose livers are just slightly under par, a healthier diet can be the solution, reducing cholesterol levels by 10 to 15 percent.
4. It’s always better to control your cholesterol through diet alone than with medications and diet. While this may be an option for people whose cholesterol levels are only slightly elevated, those with significantly high cholesterol levels or a history of vascular disease (like atherosclerosis) may need something extra, like a statin, to lower their cholesterol.
5. Margarine is better for cholesterol levels than butter. Margarine is made from vegetable oil, so it contains no cholesterol, unlike butter, which is made from dairy products. margarine is also high in trans fatty acids — substances that raise your LDL cholesterol while lowering the levels of HDL cholesterol in your blood, putting you at risk for heart disease and stroke. A healthier option: monounsaturated fats like olive oil and canola oil, which can lower your “bad” cholesterol levels.
6. Children can’t have high cholesterol. “Like adults, if their liver works partially, their cholesterol may be elevated. However, he adds, when children with high cholesterol become adults, they are more likely to experience cardiovascular problems at a younger age than their peers. As with adults, children can lower their high cholesterol levels somewhat by exercising regularly and following a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and foods low in saturated fat.
Reference: Everyday Health