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Cholesterol Quiz: What Do Your Numbers Mean?

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Which cholesterol test number is most important for your heart?

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Which cholesterol test number is most important for your heart?

  • Your Answer: 
  • Correct Answer: 

A high level of LDL, the bad cholesterol, is the biggest threat to your heart -- although the other numbers are important, too. Bad cholesterol can clog your arteries and lead to a heart attack or stroke.

Lower tends to be better for LDL, though your personal goal depends on your heart risk. Diabetes, middle age, or family heart troubles can all raise your risk.

Aim for these LDL levels:

  • Below 130 mg/dL for most people
  • Below 100 if you're at risk of heart disease
  • Below 70 if you're at very high risk
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What are triglycerides?

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What are triglycerides?

  • Your Answer: 
  • Correct Answer: 

Triglycerides are a kind of fat. They're found in foods, in the plump areas of your body, and in your blood. Your body makes them from any food you eat. You use them for energy right away and store extras in your fat cells for later. Hello, belly fat!

If you eat too many calories, especially sugars or carbs like candy and sweetened drinks -- the level of triglycerides in your blood can be high.

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If your total cholesterol is OK, the other numbers don't matter.

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If your total cholesterol is OK, the other numbers don't matter.

  • Your Answer: 
  • Correct Answer: 

Your total cholesterol gives you a ballpark idea of your chances of having a heart attack -- but it doesn't tell the whole story. Your doctor will need to look at all your "numbers" together: LDL, HDL, triglycerides, and total cholesterol.

Here's a general guide to total cholesterol test results:

  • Less than 200 mg/dL: Best
  • 200-239: Borderline high
  • Above 240: High
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What you eat the night before a cholesterol test can mess up your numbers.

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What you eat the night before a cholesterol test can mess up your numbers.

  • Your Answer: 
  • Correct Answer: 

After you've enjoyed a hearty dinner of spaghetti and meatballs, with ice cream for dessert, your LDL cholesterol and triglycerides can briefly go through the roof.

It's best not to eat or drink anything except water for nine to 12 hours before a cholesterol blood test. This "fasting" test will give the most accurate results for all your numbers.

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What's a good triglyceride level?

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What's a good triglyceride level?

  • Your Answer: 
  • Correct Answer: 

Aim to keep your triglyceride number below 150 mg/dL to protect your heart. Should you go even lower? Maybe. Some leading doctors say that getting below 100 mg/DL is best.

Here's how other triglyceride test results stack up:

  • 150 -199 mg/dL: Borderline high
  • 200 - 499: High
  • 500 or above: Very high
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If you have high triglycerides, you'll probably need medicine.

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If you have high triglycerides, you'll probably need medicine.

  • Your Answer: 
  • Correct Answer: 

Most people can bring down triglyceride levels by making changes to what they eat and getting enough exercise.

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Cake can be worse than bacon if you have high triglycerides.

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Cake can be worse than bacon if you have high triglycerides.

  • Your Answer: 
  • Correct Answer: 

Your body makes triglycerides quickly and easily from sugar and refined flour, two main ingredients in cake.

Bacon is certainly not great for your heart or your cholesterol level, since it has a lot of fat and saturated fat. But it won't make your triglycerides rise as quickly as a slice of chocolate cake.

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Which drink is worst for your triglycerides?

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Which drink is worst for your triglycerides?

  • Your Answer: 
  • Correct Answer: 

Alcohol is chock-full of calories and sugar, and can give your triglyceride levels a powerful push in the wrong direction. If you've got high triglycerides, cut back on how much alcohol you drink.

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Which can raise your triglyceride level?

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Which can raise your triglyceride level?

  • Your Answer: 
  • Correct Answer: 

Many people with diabetes have high triglyceride levels. Luckily, some of the same steps that help control blood sugar can better your triglycerides. Lose extra pounds, get more exercise, and eat more fiber from beans, veggies, and whole grains.

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What should your good cholesterol level be?

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What should your good cholesterol level be?

  • Your Answer: 
  • Correct Answer: 

A good cholesterol level of 60 or higher can help protect you from a heart attack or stroke. An HDL number that is too low -- and bad for your heart -- depends partly on your gender:

  • Risky for men - below 40 mg/dL
  • Risky for women - below 50 mg/dL

You can raise your good cholesterol with exercise, losing extra weight, and quitting smoking. Alcohol may slightly raise HDL, but moderation is key. That means no more than one drink a day for women and one to two drinks a day for men.

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Which is worse for your cholesterol?

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Which is worse for your cholesterol?

  • Your Answer: 
  • Correct Answer: 

Coconut meat and coconut milk are chock-full of saturated fat, which raises levels of bad cholesterol.

Walnuts can actually be good for your cholesterol, if you eat a small handful instead of a junk-food snack. They're a good source of fiber and healthy, omega-3 fats. Keep an eye on portion size, because walnuts have lots of calories.

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A health fair cholesterol test is a waste of time.

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A health fair cholesterol test is a waste of time.

  • Your Answer: 
  • Correct Answer: 

Cholesterol tests done at a health fair can be a good first step, but you need to talk to your doctor about the results. The triglyceride and bad cholesterol numbers can be wrong, depending on what you ate beforehand.

Your doctor can go over what your numbers mean and talk with you about lifestyle changes and treatment -- and follow up to see if they've worked.

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An underactive thyroid gland can…

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An underactive thyroid gland can…

  • Your Answer: 
  • Correct Answer: 

When your thyroid gland slows down, called hypothyroid, it can send your triglycerides and bad cholesterol soaring. Usually, taking thyroid medicine fixes the problem and will bring both numbers back into a safe zone.

Your Score:   You correctly answered   out of   questions.
Your Score:   You correctly answered   out of   questions.

Fantastic! You know the score on testing and how to protect your heart.

You missed a few. Why not take the quiz again to test your new knowledge?

Your know-how has some, ahem, large gaps. Or maybe you're multi-tasking. Brush up on the basics, from triglycerides to LDL (Hint: It's bad!). Then try, try again.