High blood cholesterol is one of the factors for heart attack, which is the leading cause of death. It is a waxy substance your body produces to help it function properly. A diet containing too much fat, and calories contributes to high blood cholesterol. Neither fat nor cholesterol dissolves in the bloodstream. Instead, both are carried through the body in packages called lipoproteins.
Cholesterol found in low-density lipoproteins (LDL cholesterol) is considered most responsible for plaque formation that clogs the arteries, leading to stroke and heart attack. High-density lipoproteins (HDLs)—known as “good cholesterol”—are thought to be responsible for removing extra cholesterol from the blood and thereby cutting down the risk for coronary heart disease.
Measuring Your Cholesterol
Your medical provider will take a small sample of your blood either by pricking your finger or drawing blood from a vein. The blood is then analyzed, usually at a lab for the amount of total cholesterol it carries. Sometimes the proportions of LDL and HDL are also measured.
Classifying Your Cholesterol
Total blood cholesterol measurements below 200 mg/dl are classified as “desirable”, those 200 to 239 mg/dl as “borderline high,” and those 240 mg/dl and above as “high” Because cholesterol levels cab fluctuate from day to day, an average or more measurements should be used for classification The benefit of knowing your number” comes from your ability take action and control your cholesterol—and that means making a long-term commitment to change.
Reducing Your Risk
Your chance of developing heart disease depends on more than just the amount of cholesterol in your blood. To get a better idea of what your cholesterol number means and what action you should take, start by identifying and adding up your other risk factors for heart disease.
Such factors include:
Male (45 years and older)
Female (55 years and older menopause without hormone ment therapy)
Family history of early heart disease (before the age of 55)
High blood pressure (140/90 mmHg or higher)
Low levels of HDL-cholesterol (less than 35 mg/dl)
Diabetes or impaired glucose tolerance.
Just as these factors combine to increase your risk of heart disease, healthy habits such as eating a low-fat diet, regular exercise, and not smoking can reduce your risk. Many people can lower their blood cholesterol simply by increasing their level of physical activity, and changing the way they eat—avoiding foods high in fat, especially saturated fat and cholesterol. The higher your cholesterol level is, the greater the benefits will be if you lower it.
Regular cholesterol testing should begin at age 35 for men and age 45 for women. The test should be repeated every 5 years until age 75.