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Glossary of Terms: Cholesterol, Heart Disease, and High Blood Pressure

Confused by medical jargon? Consider this your cheat sheet. Here are all the terms you need to know when it comes to heart disease, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure -- and the lifestyle changes that help you prevent or manage them.

Aerobic exercise: Also known as “cardio,” aerobic exercise is any type of physical activity that raises your heart rate. Examples include brisk walking, jogging, running, jumping rope, and swimming. Studies show that doing 30 minutes of aerobic exercise 5 to 7 days a week can cut your risk of heart disease, lower your blood pressure, boost your HDL (good) cholesterol, and help with weight loss.

DASH diet: DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) is a diet plan from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute that helps lower blood pressure. On this plan, you eat a diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables, low-fat dairy products, whole grains, fish, poultry, beans, seeds, and nuts. The diet is low in saturated fat, cholesterol, sugars, red meat, and salt.

Fiber: A carbohydrate found in fruits, vegetables, and grains. There are two types of fiber. Soluble fiber, found in oats, peas, beans, apples, citrus fruits, carrots, and barley, can dissolve in water and helps lower cholesterol and blood sugar levels. Insoluble fiber, found in whole wheat flour, wheat bran, nuts, beans, and other vegetables, such as cauliflower and potatoes, aids in digestion and can help prevent and treat constipation. Research shows that diets high in fiber (the recommended daily intake is about 38 grams for men and 25 for women) can help lower the risk of heart disease.

HDL cholesterol: Two types of cholesterol are found in your bloodstream: HDL and LDL. HDL is the “good” kind. It acts as a scavenger, picking up extra cholesterol and taking it back to your liver. When a doctor tests your blood for cholesterol levels, you want your HDL levels to be high. HDL levels of 60 or more help to lower your risk for heart disease.

Heart rate: Your heart rate is how fast your heart is beating. It's also called your pulse. By checking it when you're exercising, you can track how hard your heart is working. Your target heart rate range depends on your age and how intense the activity is that you're doing. Check with your doctor on that, especially if you have heart disease. You can wear a heart rate monitor or learn to take your pulse using just your fingers, preferably at your wrist.

Hypertension: Another word for high blood pressure, hypertension is a common condition in which blood flows through your arteries too forcefully. Blood pressure is measured by two numbers. The top number is called the systolic blood pressure, and the bottom number is the diastolic blood pressure. Your blood pressure is high when it’s at or above140/90. Normal blood pressure is 120/80 or lower.

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Is Your Cholesterol Level Heart Healthy?
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Answer:
Desirable
0-199
Borderline
200-239
High
240+

Your level is currently

Congratulations! Your total cholesterol level is in the Desirable range, and your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is optimal.

Congratulations! Your total cholesterol level is in the Desirable range, and your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is near optimal.

Your total cholesterol level is in the Desirable range, but your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is borderline high. If your LDL goes higher, your total cholesterol level could become Borderline High. Consider reducing the amount of foods you eat with saturated fats and increasing physical activity. If you get more exercise, your level of "good" HDL cholesterol may increase, which could also help to keep your levels of LDL and total cholesterol in check.

Your total cholesterol level is in the Desirable range, but your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is High. This may mean that your level of high-density lipoprotein (HDL), or "good" cholesterol, is too low. It is best to have a high level of "good" HDL and a low level of "bad" LDL. The HDL helps keep your LDL level in check. Ask your doctor for your HDL level. If your HDL is low, increasing your physical activity can increase it, which may help reduce your LDL level.

Your total cholesterol level is in the Desirable range, but your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is Very High. This may mean that your level of high-density lipoprotein (HDL), or "good" cholesterol, is too low. It is best to have a high level of "good" HDL and a low level of "bad" LDL because the HDL helps keep your LDL level in check. Ask your doctor for your HDL level. If your HDL is low, increasing your physical activity can increase it, which may help reduce your LDL level.

Your total cholesterol level is Borderline High, but fortunately your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is optimal. This could mean you have a high level of high-density lipoprotein, or "good" HDL cholesterol, which protects against heart disease. Or you could have other non-measured increases in LDL-like particles that can increase heart disease. Your LDL level also could be optimal if you are taking a statin medication. Please check with your doctor to get your complete lipid profile and see if you may need additional treatment. In the meantime, find more information on WebMD's Cholesterol Health Center.

Your total cholesterol level is Borderline High, but fortunately your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is near optimal. This could mean you have a high level of high-density lipoprotein, or "good" HDL cholesterol, which protects against heart disease. Or you could have other non-measured increases in LDL-like particles that can increase heart disease. Your LDL level also could be optimal if you are taking a statin medication. Please check with your doctor to get your complete lipid profile and see if you may need additional treatment. In the meantime, find more information on WebMD's Cholesterol Health Center.

Your total cholesterol level is Borderline High. Your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is Borderline High, too. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels!

Your total cholesterol level is Borderline High. Your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is High. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels!

Your total cholesterol level is Borderline High. But your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is Very High. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels!

Your total cholesterol is High, but your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is optimal. This could mean you have a high level of high-density lipoprotein, or "good" HDL cholesterol, which protects against heart disease. Or you could have elevated secondary lipids, such as non-HDL particles that increase the risk of heart disease. Your LDL level also could be optimal if you are taking a statin medication. Please check with your doctor to get your complete lipid profile and see if you may need additional treatment. In the meantime, find more information on WebMD's Cholesterol Health Center.

Your total cholesterol is High, but your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is near optimal. This could mean you have a high level of high-density lipoprotein, or "good" HDL cholesterol, which protects against heart disease. Or you could have elevated secondary lipids, such as non-HDL particles that increase the risk of heart disease. Your LDL level also could be optimal if you are taking a statin medication. Please check with your doctor to get your complete lipid profile and see if you may need additional treatment. In the meantime, find more information on WebMD's Cholesterol Health Center.

Your total cholesterol level is High. Your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is Borderline High. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels!

Your total cholesterol level is High. Your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is High, too. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels! If you are struggling to bring down your total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels, your doctor may prescribe medication, such as statins. Following medication, dietary, and exercise instructions should result in improvements.

Your total cholesterol level is High, and your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is Very High. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels! If you are struggling to bring down your total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels, your doctor may prescribe statins or other cholesterol-lowering medications.

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