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Are you watching your cholesterol? According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 93 million Americans over the age of 20 live with high cholesterol. That’s almost 40 percent of the country’s population who are at risk for heart disease and stroke. However, while high cholesterol is common for many U.S. adults, it is also controllable and preventable with the right knowledge, lifestyle choices and screenings.

What are healthy cholesterol levels?

Cholesterol is a waxy substance produced by the liver and found in cells. When present in the right amount, cholesterol is used to aid in producing sex hormones and bile and serves as a building block for human tissues. While already naturally produced by the liver, foods high in trans fats and saturation can cause cholesterol overproduction, resulting in clogged arteries and life-threatening complications. 

Your total cholesterol number is determined by high-density lipoproteins (HDL), low-density lipoproteins (LDL) and triglycerides. HDLs, or “good cholesterol,” help protect you from heart disease. LDLs, or “bad cholesterol,” block blood vessels and increase your risk. Triglycerides are fat that acts as the basis for cholesterol. 

When analyzing your cholesterol levels, the higher the HDL and lower the LDL, the better.

According to the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, the following results are considered ideal for someone with “good” cholesterol levels:

  • HDL Cholesterol: 60mg/dL or higher is preferred. 40mg/dL is passable for men. 50 mg/dL is passable for women.
  • LDL Cholesterol: Less than 100mg/dL is ideal. Less than 70mg/dL if the individual has coronary heart disease, blood vessel disease or diabetes.
  • Triglycerides: Less than 100mg/dL is ideal. Less than 149mg/dL is passable.
  • Total Cholesterol: Less than 200mg/dL is the goal, but the lower this number, the better.

Adults 20 or older should have their cholesterol tested every four to six years, as advised by the American Heart Association. Those with a family history of high cholesterol should be tested more regularly. Your physician can easily assist in testing cholesterol levels through a blood test called a lipoprotein panel. 

Please note: Patients receiving this panel must fast for nine to 12 hours prior.

What can I do to lower my cholesterol levels?

Regardless if high cholesterol is hereditary or the result of unhealthy habits, there are steps you can begin to take that will help reduce your levels and risk of adverse side effects.

Eat a heart-healthy diet.

A healthy diet makes for a happy body. Those looking to lower cholesterol should begin by cutting back on fatty and processed foods, like fast food, butter and sweets. While tasty, these foods are high in trans and saturated fats that cause LDL levels to rise. Instead, try substituting these unhealthy options for plant-based foods like fruits and vegetables, as well as whole grains, low-fat dairy, chicken and more.

Get active. 

Exercise is a great way to improve cholesterol levels and your overall health! Getting active can increase good cholesterol, lower bad cholesterol and help you lose weight, which is also shown to reduce LDL levels. Exercise can also positively impact your mental health, helping to reduce stress, which studies have shown to negatively affect cholesterol.

Take your medicine.

Along with changes to your lifestyle, your doctor may also prescribe medications to help reduce cholesterol levels. These medications commonly include statins (drugs that reduce the liver’s LDL production and aid it in removing already present LDL), Niacin (a B vitamin that helps regulate LDL, HDL and triglyceride levels) and more. Taking this medicine consistently is key to its effectiveness.

Fetter is here for you!

If you have a family history of high cholesterol or are looking to understand your current health, Fetter Health Care Network is here for you! Our team of reliable health care professionals can conduct the appropriate testing and help you create a treatment plan that’s best for you. Contact us today to schedule an appointment at your nearest Fetter location, and visit us online to learn more about our services.