Cholesterol is a fat-like substance found in cells of the human body. It is an important compound for helping people to digest food, to make hormones and to make vitamin D. However, when too much cholesterol is produced in the body, it can lead to serious health problems such as coronary heart disease and atherosclerosis.
Good Cholesterol and Bad Cholesterol
Cholesterol moves through the body in packets called “lipoproteins,” which have fat on the inside and proteins on the outside. Two types of these lipoproteins packets occur, the low-density lipoproteins, called LDL, and the high-density lipoproteins, called HDL. When physicians order tests for cholesterol, they examine the results for these two different levels. The LDL cholesterol can build up on the interior walls of arteries, and is sometimes called “bad cholesterol.” HDL cholesterol transports cholesterol to the liver where it is removed from the body. This ability causes HDL to be called “good cholesterol.” When physicians analyze the results of cholesterol tests, they look at both the good cholesterol levels and bad cholesterol levels. Diet changes and medication can help to change these cholesterol levels in the body.
Normal Cholesterol Levels
Serum cholesterol results that are below 200 milligrams per are considered as being at a desirable, normal level. Cholesterol levels above 200 to 239 mg/dL are considered borderline high and should be monitored closely. Dietary changes can help to bring these borderline numbers into the normal range. Cholesterol levels of 240 or above are considered high. Your physician may decide to prescribe stating medications to reduce these numbers and will advise you on dietary changes you need to make to achieve normal cholesterol levels to reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke.
Reducing Bad Cholesterol
If your test shows you have high LDL levels, you can take an active part in lowering this bad cholesterol by adding cholesterol-lowering foods to your diet. These include foods that contain omega-3 fatty acids, such as fatty fish, olive oil, nuts and foods that contain plant sterols.
Increasing Good Cholesterol Levels
You can increase the amount of good cholesterol in your body by making lifestyle changes that boost HDL levels. Don’t smoke, or if you do smoke, talk to your doctor about effective ways to quit. If you have a weight problem, find a diet that works for you and bring your weight down to a desirable level. Exercise on a regular basis with aerobic activities that help to increase good cholesterol levels in the body. These activities include running, cycling, playing basketball, walking or swimming. Consume only polyunsaturated or monounsaturated fats, such as peanut, canola or olive oils. Limit your alcohol consumption to only one or two drinks each day.
Some people have a genetic predisposition to high cholesterol or may need to lower cholesterol levels immediately while they make other lifestyle changes. For these cases, physician often prescribe statin medications, which help to lower cholesterol levels in the blood. Statins have the ability to block the substance that the liver needs to make cholesterol. A number of statin medications are available. Your physician will help you to choose the one that’s right for you to reach normal cholesterol levels.
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