Understanding Cholesterol Numbers
Depending on where you live, cholesterol levels may be measured in mg or milligrams of cholesterol per dL or deciliter of blood. Other countries measure cholesterol in mmol or millimoles per L of blood.
Once you receive your lipid profile or lipid panel results you will be able to determine if your cholesterol falls in a healthy range or in a potential danger zone.
Do You Have Healthy or Unhealthy Cholesterol Levels?
To understand your cholesterol levels it is important to understand some of your body’s processes.
Cholesterol, made in our liver, is a compound found in the majority of the tissues in our bodies, including our nerves and blood. It is a vital component of cell membranes and additionally works as a precursor for other steroid compounds.
Even though cholesterol is necessary for all animal life, high blood concentrations can prove dangerous and lead to plaque formation or atherosclerosis.
Have you ever pulled out a hair clog from your bathroom drain? Perhaps it was all thick and sludgy and there was slimy soap scum residue that had built up over a long period of time. Many people use this analogy when describing what your cardiovascular veins and arteries look like with atherosclerosis.
Types of Cholesterol
There are 4 cholesterol numbers that you will be given after being tested with a simple fasting blood test from your doctor. These are:
- High-Density Lipoprotein or HDL,
- Low-Density Lipoprotein or LDL,
- Triglycerides and
- Total Cholesterol.
Total Cholesterol is considered to be desirable if it falls below 5.2 mmol/L or 200 mg/dL.
- It falls into the borderline high range if it measures 5.2 – 6.2 mmol/L or 200-239 mg/dL.
- High is above 6.2 mmol/L or 240 mg/dL.
LDL Cholesterol (think of L for should be ‘Low Count’ cholesterol, due to its damaging effect on your cardiovascular system) is considered to be near the ideal range if it falls in the range of 2.6-3.3 mmol/L or 100-129 range.
- It is considered to be ideal for people at risk of heart disease if it measures below 2.6 mmol/L or 100 mg/dL.
- It is considered to be ideal for people at very high risk of heart disease if it falls below 1.8 mmol/L or 70 mg/dL.
- Borderline High is 3.4-4.1 mmol/L or 130-159 mg/dL and
- High is considered 4.1-4.9 mmol/L or 160-189 mg/dL or above 4.9 mmol/L or 190 mg/dL.
HDL Cholesterol (think H for ‘Healthy’ cholesterol, since it returns damaging LDL cholesterol back to the liver where it can be subsequently broken down). This is the only type of cholesterol where higher numbers are better. It is recommended that your HDL cholesterol should be above 60 mg/dL. If your numbers measure lower, a variety of changes to your lifestyle can help to increase it.
Triglyceride Levels are considered to be in the healthy range if they fall below 150 mg/dL.
There is another test you can ask for if you so desire. It is a VLDL.
Very Low Density Lipoprotein is made up of a type of fat, also known as triglycerides and is particularly harmful. The healthy range is considered between 2 to 30 mg/dL. You may need to specifically request this test as typical cholesterol panels do not generally include this. It is important if you have a family history of high cholesterol or heart disease.
Once you know your numbers you can take action where needed. If you need to lower your bad cholesterol numbers and raise the good levels, ask your doctor about making the necessary lifestyle changes to achieve your goals.
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Yes, there’s a lot to learn about living well with high cholesterol. Getting in control might take some time. It’s going to mean making some changes in your life, but you can start with small changes, and you don’t have to make them all at once. And you don’t have to do it alone. If you aren’t on our mailing list and would like to keep up with what we are learning, sign up below. If you have any questions, feel free to reach out and ask. I’m here to help!