Lower Cholesterol to Reduce Heart Disease Risk
What Cholesterol Numbers Should I Have?
Everyone older than age 20 should get their cholesterol levels measured at least once every five years. The test performed is a blood test called a lipoprotein profile. That includes:
- Total cholesterol level
- LDL (the "bad" cholesterol)
- HDL (the "good" cholesterol)
Here's how to interpret your cholesterol numbers:
Less than 200
200 - 239
240 and above
LDL Cholesterol Category
Less than 100
100 - 129
130 - 159
160 - 189
190 and above
HDL Cholesterol Category
60 or more
Desirable - helps to lower risk of
Less than 40
Major risk factor - increases the
risk for developing heart disease
*HDL (good) cholesterol protects against heart disease, so for HDL, higher numbers are better.
HDL Cholesterol Category
Less than 150
200 or more
High, may require treatment in
What Affects Cholesterol Levels?
A variety of factors can affect your cholesterol levels. They include:
- Diet. Saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol in the food you eat increase cholesterol levels. Reducing the amount of saturated fat and trans fats and cholesterol in your diet helps lower your blood cholesterol level. Eating too much sugar and too many simple carbohydrates will increase your cholesterol levels as well.
- Weight. In addition to being a risk factor for heart disease, being overweight can also increase your cholesterol. Losing weight can help lower your LDL, total cholesterol levels, and triglyceride levels, as well as raise your HDL.
- Exercise. Regular exercise can lower LDL cholesterol and raise HDL cholesterol. You should try to be physically active for 30 minutes on most days.
- Age and Gender. As we get older, cholesterol levels rise. Before menopause, women tend to have lower total cholesterol levels than men of the same age. After menopause, however, women's LDL levels tend to rise.
- Heredity. Your genes partly determine how much cholesterol your body makes. High blood cholesterol can run in families.
- Medical conditions. Occasionally a medical condition may cause an elevation of cholesterol levels in the blood. These include hypothyroidism (an underactive thyroid gland), liver disease, and kidney disease.
- Medications. Some drugs, such as steroids and progestins may increase the "bad" cholesterol and decrease the "good" cholesterol.
What Drugs Are Used to Treat High Cholesterol?
Cholesterol-lowering drugs include:
- Bile-acid resins
- Fibric acid derivatives
Cholesterol-lowering drugs are most effective when combined with a low-cholesterol diet and exercise program.
Statins block the production of cholesterol in the liver itself. They lower LDL, the "bad" cholesterol, and triglycerides and have a mild effect in raising HDL, the "good" cholesterol. These drugs are the first line of treatment for most people with high cholesterol. They are associated with a lower risk of heart disease, and reduce the risk of future heart attacks and death in people who already have heart disease. Side effects can include intestinal problems, liver damage, and in a few people, muscle tenderness or weakness.