The Importance of Checking Cholesterol Levels
Cholesterol is an important part of the body, produced by the liver or consumed through the diet, which protects nerves, produces cell tissues and make hormones, such as estrogen and testosterone.
Although normal cholesterol levels are important for general health, excessive cholesterol in the blood can increase your risks of stroke or heart disease. When extra cholesterol is present in your blood, it is accumulated and stored in the arteries, causing these blood vessels to become narrow.
When high cholesterol levels block the passageways of your arteries, it blocks the blood vessels that supplied oxygen and blood to your heart, thus causing a heart attack. On the other hand, when blood and oxygen cannot flow into your brain, it causes a stroke.
When to Check Cholesterol Levels
Generally, women aged 45 and men aged 35 should start to seek medical attention and check their cholesterol levels periodically. However, some people may find the need for frequent check ups, depending on personal cholesterol levels and the presence of risk factors of heart disease.
People with a high risk of heart disease include those who are overweight, physically inactive, diagnosed with diabetes or high blood pressure and those who smoke cigarettes. They also occur often with people who had a recent heart attack, have family histories of heart disease and people over the age of 40.
Aiming for a Healthy Cholesterol Level
To maintain healthy cholesterol levels, it is important to understand the different types of cholesterol and learn how each affects your body. Simply put, low-density lipoproteins (or LDL) deliver cholesterols into the body, while high-density lipoproteins (HDL) eliminate these cholesterols from the blood. This is the reason why LDL is considered as bad cholesterol and HDL is recommended for a healthier body.
A healthy cholesterol level largely depends on the balance between the good and bad types of cholesterol. To determine your cholesterol numbers, you need to get a lipoprotein profile that will give you all information you need to identify possible health risks.
The total cholesterol level is the combination of both LDL and HDL. Ideally, you should aim for a 200 total level of cholesterol. Be aware that 200 to 239 is considered borderline, while total cholesterol levels of 240 and above signifies an increased risk for heart disease.
Since LDL cholesterol is considered dangerous to health, you should aim for a healthy 130 LDL level. When you have an LDL level of 130 to 159, you are at a borderline-high level. However, if your LDL level reaches 160 or more, you have a higher risk of heart disease. High HDL levels are important to reduce the risks of heart disease. The ideal level for HDL is at 60 or higher, while levels at 40 and lower have higher risks for heart disease.
When you discover unhealthy cholesterol levels for LDL, HDL and total cholesterol, you need to perform certain lifestyle changes, such as eating habits, regular exercise or reducing alcohol consumption and smoking. If these changes to your lifestyle do not reduce your cholesterol, your doctor may recommend medication and other treatment options.