What is Cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a waxy substance naturally produced by the liver in our bodies. It is essential for the production of hormones and Vitamin D and an integral part of cell membranes. The level produced by our bodies is safe in most people.
Why is it dangerous?
When we eat foods high in saturated fat and cholesterol (called dietary cholesterol), it can raise our total cholesterol to a dangerous level. When our bodies cannot use all of the cholesterol, it is deposited along the arterial walls as plaque. The plaque hardens and leads to stenosis and atherosclerosis. As the plaque builds up, it contributes to the formation of blood clots. A person with high cholesterol levels is at great risk for a heart attack or stroke. Adults age 20 and over should have their cholesterol checked at least every five years.
What is "Good" and "Bad" cholesterol?
Total cholesterol is made up of two components, High density Lipoproteins (HDL) and Low Density Lipoproteins (LDL). HDL is the "good" cholesterol. It carries cholesterol through the blood but instead of depositing the excess on the arterial wall, it returns it to the liver. A high HDL number is associated with reduced risk of heart attack and stroke.
LDL is the "bad" cholesterol. It circulates around the body depositing cholesterol where it is needed. But if there is excess, it is deposited along the arterial wall and turns into plaque. A person with a high LDL number is at great risk for heart attack or stroke.
What are the numbers?
Total Cholesterol Less than 200 mg/dl Desirable 200 to 239 mg/dl Borderline High 240 mg/dl and above High (twice the risk of having heart attack or stroke as someone with 200 mg/dl or below)
|HDL||60 mg/dl and above||
Protective against heart disease
|40 to 59 mg/dl||Some risk|
|Less than 40 mg/dl||Major risk for heart disease and stroke|
|LDL||Less than 100 mg/dl||Optimal|
|100 to 129 mg/dl||Near optimal|
|130 to 159 mg/dl||Borderline High|
|160 mg/dl to 189 mg/dl||High|
|190 mg/dl and above||Very High (Talk to your doctor)|
What can I do?
You can lower your cholesterol by doing three things on your own:
Adults age 20 and over should have their cholesterol checked at least every five years.