So a little over a year ago I had an annual check up that came back with some surprising results in regards to my cholesterol. It was high, really kind of high. High like you might expect to find on 55-year-old man who stops at McDonald’s for lunch every day.
But I wasn’t that person I was neither male nor 55 and I NEVER go to McDonald’s or anything like it. I workout 3-5 times a week based on my schedule, I do a mix of cardio, Pilates and weight training. I drink wine but not much, and compared to my husband, whose cholesterol was lower than mine at the time, I am practically dry.
So what was wrong? I looked at my food, in fact I kept a journal for an entire month before I did anything drastic. I sat down with a dietician who said though I wasn’t perfect (cheese was a problem) I was a pretty balanced eater. But we went through and made some changes, which included changing a lot of my foods to natural and organic, especially my meats and also my grains. I also increased my veggie servings, which I insist comes from local farms.
So my diet changes included only meats and chickens that were all natural, local and grass-fed whenever possible. I increased my local fish intake to 3 servings per week and made moderate changes elsewhere. I didn’t give up the cheese, I couldn’t do it.
The result? I lowered my total cholesterol by 55 points but I raised my HDLs by 30 points. For what my doctor called a picture perfect cholesterol level.
I looked up what the American Heart Association had to say about cholesterol numbers for the following:
- Your total blood (or serum) cholesterol level
- Your HDL (good) cholesterol level
- Your LDL (bad) cholesterol level
- Your triglyceride level
TOTAL Cholesterol levels:
Less than 200 mg/dL: Desirable
If your LDL, HDL and triglyceride levels are also at desirable levels and you have no other risk factors for heart disease, total blood cholesterol below 200 mg/dL puts you at relatively low risk of coronary heart disease. Even with a low risk, however, it’s still smart to eat a heart-healthy diet, get regular physical activity and avoid tobacco smoke. Have your cholesterol levels checked every five years or as your doctor recommends.
200–239 mg/dL: Borderline-High Risk
If your total cholesterol falls between 200 and 239 mg/dL, your doctor will evaluate your levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol, HDL (good) cholesterol and triglycerides. It’s possible to have borderline-high total cholesterol numbers with normal levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol balanced by high HDL (good) cholesterol. Work with your doctor to create a prevention and treatment plan that’s right for you. Make lifestyle changes, including eating a heart-healthy diet, getting regular physical activity and avoiding tobacco smoke. Depending on your LDL (bad) cholesterol levels and your other risk factors, you may also need medication. Ask your doctor how often you should have your cholesterol rechecked.
240 mg/dL and over: High Risk
People who have a total cholesterol level of 240 mg/dL or more typically have twice the risk of coronary heart disease as people whose cholesterol level is desirable (200 mg/dL). If your test didn’t show your LDL cholesterol, HDL cholesterol and triglycerides, your doctor should order a fasting profile. Work with your doctor to create a prevention and treatment plan that’s right for you. Whether or not you need cholesterol-regulating medication, make lifestyle changes, including eating a heart-healthy diet, getting regular physical activity and avoiding tobacco smoke.
With HDL (good) cholesterol, higher levels are better. Low HDL cholesterol (less than 40 mg/dL for men, less than 50 mg/dL for women) puts you at higher risk for heart disease. In the average man, HDL cholesterol levels range from 40 to 50 mg/dL. In the average woman, they range from 50 to 60 mg/dL. An HDL cholesterol of 60 mg/dL or higher gives some protection against heart disease.
Smoking, being overweight and being sedentary can all result in lower HDL cholesterol. To raise your HDL level, avoid tobacco smoke, <!– –>maintain a healthy weight<!– –> and get at least 30–60 minutes of physical activity more days than not.
People with high blood triglycerides usually also have lower HDL cholesterol and a higher risk of heart attack and stroke. Progesterone, anabolic steroids and male sex hormones (testosterone) also lower HDL cholesterol levels. Female sex hormones raise HDL cholesterol levels.
The lower your LDL cholesterol, the lower your risk of heart attack and stroke. In fact, it’s a better gauge of risk than total blood cholesterol. In general, LDL levels fall into these categories:
|LDL Cholesterol Levels|
|Less than 100 mg/dL||Optimal|
|100 to 129 mg/dL||Near Optimal/ Above Optimal|
|130 to 159 mg/dL||Borderline High|
|160 to 189 mg/dL||High|
|190 mg/dL and above||Very High|
<!– –>The Cholesterol Heart Profilers is a great starting point for learning about prevention and treatment options for your specific cholesterol levels. This free, confidential online service creates a printable report with the key information you need to fully understand your cholesterol levels, health risks and treatment options. You’ll get a personalized cardiovascular disease risk profile, along with a summary of treatment options, potential side effects, success rates and a list of relevant medical journal articles and research studies, all summarized in plain English.
Triglyceride is a form of fat. People with high triglycerides often have a high total cholesterol level, including high LDL (bad) cholesterol and low HDL (good) cholesterol levels.
Your triglyceride level will fall into one of these categories:
- Normal: less than 150 mg/dL
- Borderline-High: 150–199 mg/dL
- High: 200–499 mg/dL
- Very High: 500 mg/dL
Many people have high triglyceride levels due to being overweight/obese, physical inactivity, cigarette smoking, excess alcohol consumption and/or a diet very high in carbohydrates (60 percent of more of calories). High triglycerides are a lifestyle-related risk factor; however, underlying diseases or genetic disorders can be the cause.
The main therapy to reduce triglyceride levels is to change your lifestyle. This means <!– –>control your weight<!– –>, eat a heart-healthy diet, get regular physical activity, avoid tobacco smoke, limit alcohol to one drink per day for women or two drinks per day for men and limit beverages and foods with added sugars. Visit your healthcare provider to create an action plan that will incorporate all these lifestyle changes. Sometimes, medication is needed in addition to a healthy diet and lifestyle.
If I can do it, so can you. The life you save may be your own.
posted by Kimberly Lancaster | Follow me on Twitter