Know Your Cholesterol numbers and be 'Heart Healthy'

It is necessary to be 'heart healthy' and to know your cholesterol numbers. A first step to knowing whether you are 'heart healthy' is assessing the risk and following the new cholesterol guidelines. It is also necessary to understand why cholesterol numbers and risk factors are important to being healthy. In this regard, the National Cholesterol Education Program has set out new cholesterol guidelines in 2001 which lays emphasis on a number of factors including knowing all the cholesterol numbers. There are many people attending health fairs that get cholesterol tests done to find out how healthy they are. The total cholesterol number pertains to the number of milligrams of cholesterol contained in a deciliter of blood (mg/dL). A total cholesterol number of 200 or less is recommended. A number between 200 and 239 indicates the presence of a problematic condition, especially if there are two or more other risk factors. A number of 240 or more means seeing a doctor for a complete fasting lipoprotein profile.

Good, Bad, High or Low

As far as 'good' cholesterol levels are concerned, a HDL level of 60 or more is considered good while a number less than 35 to less than 45 is considered low, and a number in the mid forties for men and mid fifties for women is considered average. And, for 'bad' cholesterol (LDL), the new guidelines have an additional category called optimal level. A desirable LDL level cholesterol number should be less than 130 to less than 100 mg/dL. A smaller LDL number or a LDL number of fewer than 100 is thought to be more beneficial than higher numbers.

A LDL number that is 160 or more is a high risk factor while a number between 130 and 159 is a borderline reading, and it is possible to lower high LDL cholesterol as well as raise HDL cholesterol numbers through changes in lifestyle and dietary controls. There are also new guidelines pertaining to triglycerides numbers and excessive levels of triglycerides are a risk factor for heart disease. For persons with a triglyceride level of less than 200 mg/dL, doctors may require giving them additional medical treatment in besides cholesterol lowering treatments.

As a general rule, total cholesterol should not exceed 200 mg/dL of blood and LDL cholesterol should also be below 130 mg/dL while HDL cholesterol levels should be 35 or more. Any other cholesterol numbers would require a personalized treatment plan that a doctor will need to prescribe, and could include cholesterol lowering medication.