Understand your cholesterol and triglyceride
The risk of developing heart disease and diabetes are significantly increased when your cholesterol and triglyceride levels are eleveated. So understanding your cholesterol and triglyceride numbers are important in your fight to live a long and healthy life.
To understand your cholesterol and triglyceride values you must have access to your blood test results. You can receive those at the doctors office by signing a release and requesting a copy. Your blood results will show you cholesterol and triglyceride numbers that are broken down into different values. It is important that when you had your blood test done that you were fasting or had nothing to eat or drink for 8-12 hours before the test – depending upon the lab.
But what is it they are measuring?
Cholesterol is a fat like substance in our blood system. Our bodies actually manufactures all the cholesterol that we need to maintain our cell membranes, produce sex hormones, produce bile and assist in the production of Vitamin D. Unfortunately there are substances in meat and processed foods that will break down into cholesterol in our bodies and thus give us much more than is needed. High levels of cholesterol and triglycerides have been linked to heart disease, peripheral vascular disease, stroke and pancreatitis.
Your doctor will account for your age, family history, smoking history and high blood pressure when they evaluate your cholesterol test results. The test results will have the Total Cholesterol, low density lipoproteins (LDL), high density lipoproteins (HDL) and triglycerides.
When you evaluate your blood test to understand your cholesterol and triglyceride levels you will look first at your total cholesterol number. This number is best under 200. At a level between 200 and 239 doctors will consider this a borderline-high risk level for heart disease, stroke and diabetes.
You physician will compare your total number against the LDL, HDL and triglycerides, as well as against other risk factors for heart disease and stroke that you may have. At this level you will need to work with your doctor to create a prevention program that includes dietary changes, weight loss and exercise.
People who have a total cholesterol over 240 are rated at high risk for heart disease and stroke. They will typically have twice the risk of coronary heart disease as people whose level is desirable. At this level, depending upon your other levels – LDL, HDL and triglyercides – you must make changes to your diet, weight and exercise habits. Have your cholesterol level rechecked and if you haven’t been able to reduce your levels you may want to talk with your doctor about cholesterol lowering drugs.
Your HDL cholesterol should be high – the higher the better. Having a low HDL – less than 40 for men and 50 for women – puts you at higher risk for heart disease. Your HDL level will decrease if you are overweight, sedentary or smoke. People with high triglycerides usually also have low HDL cholesterol.
The LDL or bad cholesterol is an important number to understand your cholesterol and triglyceride values. When you lower your LDL you’ll lower your risk of heart attack and stroke. Some labs will use different values but in general an LDL of less than 100 is optimal, 100-129 is above optimal, 130-159 is borderline high, 160-189 is high and anything over 190 is very high and dangerous. Doctors will also consider your other risks for heart disease and stroke to determine where your LDL should be optimally for you. Your healthy level may not be healthy for your friend or your spouse. Talk with your doctor and get an explanation about what criteria has gone into the decisions for your healthy numbers.
Triglyceride is a form of fat that is found in the blood. People with high triglyceride levels usually have high total cholesterol values too. Normal levels for triglycerides are less than 150; borderline high is 150-199; high is 200-499 and very high is over 500. People with high triglyceride levels are usually obese, physically inactive, smoke or drink an excessive amount of alcohol. A high triglyceride level is also a predictive value for diabetes. Those with a high triglyceride value are at much greater risk to develop diabetes than those whose value is close to normal.
American Heart Association: What Your Cholesterol Levels Mean
American Heart Association: Good vs. Bad Cholesterol
American Heart Association: Understanding and Managing Your Triglycerides
MedlinePlus: Understanding Cholesterol Results
MayoClinic: Cholesterol Test
MayoClinic: High Cholesterol
Sutter Health: Understaning Cholesterol
BCBS Nebraska: Managing Cholesterol
Harvard Health Publication: Understanding Cholesterol
Marks Daily Apple: How to Interpret Cholesterol Test Results