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Cholesterol Levels – What Do They Mean?

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Posted on May 7th, 2019 by Teri Dreher, under Nutrition, Patient Advocacy, Patient Tools, Take Charge, Tips & Resources

If you’ve had a recent blood test, there’s a good chance you’ve had a screening test for cholesterol levels called a lipid profile. It helps to screen for lipid disorders. The results of this test includes: LDL, HDL, Triglycerides, and Total Cholesterol. They are reported as numbers which your physician may use to help calculate your risk for serious heart problems and aid in developing a strategy to help reduce that risk.

So, just what do these numbers mean?

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LDL (low-density lipo-protein cholesterol) or “Bad” Cholesterol: The lower your LDL Cholesterol #, the lower your risk. If your LDL is 190 or greater, it is considered very high. Your Doctor may prescribe medications (these are known as statins) to improve cholesterol levels and lower your risk of heart disease. In addition, he probably will suggest making healthy lifestyle choices.

HDL (high-density lipo-protein cholesterol) or “Good” Cholesterol: a higher # means lower risk. HDL cholesterol protects against heart disease by taking the “Bad” cholesterol out of your blood and keeping it from building up in your arteries.

Triglycerides (Fats carried in the blood from food we eat): a high triglyceride level has been linked to higher risk of coronary artery disease.

Total Cholesterol (a measure of of LDL, HDL, and other Lipid components): Your Doctor will use your total cholesterol # in determining your risk for heart disease, and how best to manage. Your Doctor may also prescribe a test for Hemoglobin A1C. High levels of hemoglobin A1C can indicate either pre-diabetes or diabetes. The A1C test is a blood test that provides information about your average levels of blood glucose, also called blood sugar, over the past 3 months.

The body needs some cholesterol in order to function properly. Too much cholesterol can increase someone’s risk of developing heart disease.

Risk Factors

There are some Risk Factors beyond our control, such as Gender, Age, and Family History. There are also some Risk Factors which can be controlled, such as Diet, Weight, Physical Activity & Exercise. So, what can you do to lower high cholesterol? Seek expert advice – See your Doctor; Change or modify your Diet – helps in getting to a healthier weight; Quit smoking – smoking lowers your “good” HDL levels, so quitting smoking is a benefit here; Get moving! …make exercise a part of your daily routine; Take your Medications as prescribed – you may have been prescribed some medications to help lower your cholesterol – Take as directed. As with ANY medicine, ask your Doctor or Pharmacist if you have any questions, and follow Doctor’s guidelines.

  • Items taken from WebMD and American Heart Association

With over 36 years of clinical experience in Critical Care nursing, home based health care and expertise as a cardiovascular nurse clinician, Teri is well acquainted with the complexities of the modern healthcare system. She has served as a nursing leader, mentor, educator, and consistent patient advocate throughout her career in some of the best hospitals across the country. Her passion to keep the patient at the center of the model of nursing care led her to incorporate NShore Patient Advocates, LLC in 2011, serving clients throughout the northern suburbs of Chicago.

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