Frequently Asked Questions About Cholesterol
1) What Is Cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance that occurs naturally in the body and is made by the liver. Cholesterol is also present in foods we eat. People need cholesterol for the body to function normally. Cholesterol is present in the cell walls or membranes everywhere in the body, including the brain, nerves, muscles, skin, liver, intestines, and heart.
2) Why Should I Be Concerned About Cholesterol?
Too much cholesterol in your body means that you have an increased risk of getting cardiovascular diseases such as heart disease. If you have too much cholesterol in your body, the cholesterol can build up on the walls of the arteries that carry blood to your heart. This buildup, which occurs over time, causes less blood and oxygen to get to your heart. This can cause chest pain and heart attacks. Too much cholesterol can also increase your risk of stroke.
3) What's the Difference Between "Good" and "Bad" Cholesterol?
HDL (high density lipoprotein) cholesterol is known as "good" cholesterol. HDL takes the "bad," LDL (low density lipoprotein) cholesterol out of your blood and keeps it from building up in your arteries. LDL cholesterol is known as bad cholesterol because it can build up on the walls of your arteries and increase your chances of getting cardiovascular disease. When being tested for cholesterol, make sure you get numbers of total cholesterol, HDL cholesterol and LDL cholesterol.
4) How Much Cholesterol Is Too Much?
Doctors recommend your cholesterol stay below 200 mg/dL. Here is the breakdown:
|Less than 200
|200 - 239
|240 and above
|Less than 100
|100 - 129
||Near optimal/above optimal
|130 - 159
|160 - 189
|190 and above
HDL (good) cholesterol protects against heart disease, so for HDL, higher numbers are better. A level less than 40 is low and is considered a major cardiac disease risk factor because it increases your risk for developing heart disease. HDL levels of 60 or more help to lower your risk for heart disease.
Triglyceride levels that are borderline high (150-199) or high (200 or more) may require treatment in some people.
5) Can I Lower My Risk for Heart Disease If I Lower My Cholesterol?
Your risk for heart disease is lower when you have low total cholesterol and low LDL. Remember, a higher HDL number is better, however.
6) What Makes My Cholesterol Levels Go Up?
Eating foods such as red meat, whole milk dairy products, egg yolks, and some kinds of fish can make your cholesterol levels go up. Being overweight can make your bad cholesterol go up and your good cholesterol go down. Also, after women go through menopause, their bad cholesterol levels tend to increase.