WHAT IT IS?
Cholesterol is a soft, waxy substance found among the lipids (fats) in the bloodstream and in all your body's cells.
"Good and bad" cholesterol
The main types of lipids are:
Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol is sometimes called "bad"
cholesterol because it transports cholesterol to sites throughout your body,
where it is either deposited or used to repair cell membranes. LDL cholesterol
promotes accumulation of cholesterol in the walls of your arteries.
High-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol is sometimes referred to as "good" cholesterol because it helps clear excess cholesterol from your body.
Very-low-density lipoprotein (VLDL). This type of lipoprotein is made up of mostly triglycerides and small amounts of protein and cholesterol.
High cholesterol is diagnosed through blood tests that measure:
the total level of cholesterol in your blood
the level of HDL-cholesterol in your blood
the level of LDL-cholesterol in your blood
the level of triglycerides in your blood
RECOMMENDED CHOLESTEROL LEVELS
In 2001, guidelines from the National Cholesterol Education Panel recommended that all lipid tests be performed after fasting and should measure all four cholesterol components: total cholesterol, HDL, LDL, and triglycerides.
The total cholesterol measurement, as with all lipid measurements taken at all laboratories, will be listed as milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL). In most cases, the higher your total cholesterol, the higher your risk for heart disease. A value of less than 200 mg/dL is desirable, placing you at less risk for heart disease. Levels over 240 mg/dL may put you at almost twice the risk of heart disease as someone with a level less than 200 mg/dL.
High LDL cholesterol levels may be the best predictor of risk of heart disease. If you have known heart disease, peripheral vascular disease (blockages in the blood vessels of the extremities), or diabetes, your LDL cholesterol should be below 100 mg/dL. If you have 2 or more heart-disease risk factors (smoking, high blood pressure, low HDL, a family history of heart disease, are a man over 45 or woman over 55), your LDL should be below 130 mg/dL. If you have none or 1 of the risk factors listed, your LDL cholesterol should be below 160.
HDL cholesterol levels more than or equal to 60 mg/dL will take away the increased risk from one risk factor and decrease your risk of heart disease. Levels below 40 mg/dL add a risk factor.
Triglyceride levels are also becoming an important predictor of risk for heart disease. Even if you have low LDL and high HDL cholesterol, high triglyceride levels may put you at risk. Normal triglyceride levels are less than 150 mg/dL and can be incorrectly elevated if a 9-12 hour fast was not completed.
It is important to discuss your results with your doctor to determine the best therapy given your risk factors and lifestyle.
CHOLESTEROL AND WEIGHT LOSS
Excess weight increases your triglycerides. It also lowers your HDL cholesterol and increases your VLDL cholesterol.
A rise in the body fat in the waist and upper body is associated with risk of heart stroke.
CHOLESTEROL AND EXERCISE
Even moderate activity can boost HDL ("good") cholesterol. Exercise has many benefits for your health:
Lowers blood pressure
It improves the lipid levels in the blood (cholesterol is just a type of fat in your body, so through exercise, by burning fat, you reduce your cholesterol).
Exercise can also offer other benefits, including strengthened muscles, increased flexibility, and stronger bones and mental-health benefits like relieving stress and anxiety.
Always remember to consult your doctor before starting an exercise plan.