The NP Answers your FAQ: Why is it important to Know my Cholesterol Levels?
“I’m young and healthy, why do I need to be concerned about my cholesterol levels now?”
“Health Promotion and Disease Prevention” is a pro-active approach to good health. It is important to know what your general health risk factors are to help guide you toward healthy lifestyle choices, which will impact your health now and in the future. When we see patients in our clinic, part of the process of making a diagnosis involves assessing the person’s risk factors. In terms of heart disease, risk factors include any family history of heart disease and high cholesterol. If you don’t already know this information, it would be a good idea to talk with your parents about your family’s health history, because it does affect your own health course.
Cardiovascular risk factors can be divided into “non-modifiable” such as age, family history of early heart disease and gender. “Modifiable” risk factors include cigarette smoking, diabetes, abnormal cholesterol, hypertension, obesity and physical inactivity. As you can see, there are many factors you can change to improve your health risk profile and to improve your cholesterol values. Cholesterol is a type of fat (also called lipid) made by your liver.
Cholesterol is also contained in certain foods that you eat. Too much of the wrong cholesterol is a major risk factor for heart disease. Hyperlipidemia is the medical term used to describe having abnormal amounts of lipids in the blood. Too much of the wrong type of cholesterol in your blood can raise your risk of a heart attack or stroke in the future due to plaque build-up on the arterial walls.
Cholesterol occurs in various forms in the body. Low density lipoprotein (LDL) is considered “bad” cholesterol as it increases your heart disease risk. High density lipoprotein (HDL) is considered “good” cholesterol as it protects your heart. Elevated blood fats called triglycerides are also associated with a higher risk of heart disease.
It is recommended that you check your baseline cholesterol levels at age 20 then once every five years. Depending on what your cholesterol level is, and whether you have other risk factors for heart disease, you may need to have your cholesterol checked more often.
What Should My Cholesterol Levels be?
In general, if your total cholesterol is <200, your LDL is <130, your HDL is >50 and Triglycerides are <150, you’ve got a very good lipid profile.
What Can I do to Improve my Lipid Profile?
“Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes” (TLC) that can positively influence your health, and your cholesterol levels, at any age include:
· Stop smoking!
· Reduce the amount of saturated fats in your diet,
· Increase the amount of (soluble) fiber in your diet,
· Maintain a healthy weight (Body Mass Index between 18.5-24.5),
· Increase aerobic exercise 30-45 minutes at least 5 days/week.
Please call for an appointment with one of our Medical Providers if you want to discuss your health concerns and/or want to have your lipid profile tested. We will be happy to meet with you.