Often when we think about
cholesterol, we think of not so great things like heart disease, obesity and poor
health. Cholesterol is a waxy substance our body produces naturally that
is actually not bad. It’s present in the walls of every cell in
the body including the brain, heart, nerves, muscles, skin and more. In
short, your body needs cholesterol as part of a vital body system that
helps our body’s metabolism, to create our cells and hormones,
vitamin D and enzymes for digestion.
Cholesterol can come from two sources:
- the liver, which stores glycogen for energy, metabolizes fat, carbohydrates
and proteins and helps to detoxify the body and clear excess cholesterol
from our systems by producing bile that is eliminated in the process of digestion
- and, the foods we eat.
Although cholesterol by itself is not bad, too much cholesterol can increase
the risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke. It can build up in the
arteries and over time can cause less blood and vital oxygen to travel
to the heart. When you have your blood cholesterol tested, here are a
few pointers in understanding your numbers:
Total Cholesterol: Total cholesterol is calculated by adding HDL, LDL and 20% of your triglycerides
as a composite number. Generally, total cholesterol should be below 200.
However, this number can be confusing to interpret because there are both
“bad” and “good” cholesterol levels that should
LDL: LDL is known as the “bad” cholesterol and is attributed to
fatty buildups in arteries, increased plaque and increased risk of heart
attack, stroke and other artery diseases. Ideally LDL levels should be
below 130, but should be evaluated by a physician if you have a family
history of heart disease or you yourself have experienced heart problems.
HDL: HDL is known as the “good” cholesterol. The higher the levels,
the better. The job of HDL cholesterol is to “clean” the blood
and help remove the LDL cholesterol from circulation. It is believed that
healthy levels of HDL help to protect the body from heart attack and stroke.
Ideally this number should be above 50. Levels below 40 are considered
a risk factor for increased heart health issues.
Triglycerides: Triglycerides are a type of fat that our body uses for energy. Normal
levels of triglycerides vary depending on sex and age although normal
levels are generally less than 150. Many people who have heart disease
also have high triglyceride levels and high levels are also associated
with incidence of diabetes and metabolic syndrome. Our genetics can also
play a role in our triglyceride levels.
As a general rule to improve your cholesterol levels, live a moderately
active lifestyle, maintain a healthy weight, eat wisely- avoiding processed
and fatty foods, choose “healthy fats” such as avocados, nuts
and olive oils, limit alcohol intake, and quit smoking.
Campbell County Health
Wellness works to reduce health risks and promote overall wellness among employee
groups and individuals across the northeastern Wyoming region. At Wellness,
you can receive
daily community blood draws, lab tests, and health and wellness screenings in Gillette, Wyoming. To
learn more about Wellness, please visit
www.cchwyo.org/Wellness or call 307.688.8051.
This blog was written by Rachel Wilde, PBT, CPT, MA, CCH Wellness Services
Technician and Phlebotomist