According to the Mayo Clinic in the US: Cholesterol is a waxy substance found in your blood. Your body needs cholesterol to build healthy cells, but high levels of cholesterol can increase your risk of heart disease. With high cholesterol, you can develop fatty deposits in your blood vessels. Eventually, these deposits grow, making it difficult for enough blood to flow through your arteries. Sometimes, those deposits can break suddenly and form a clot that causes a heart attack or stroke.
High cholesterol can be inherited, but it’s often the result of unhealthy lifestyle choices, which make it preventable and treatable. A healthy diet, regular exercise and sometimes medication can help reduce high cholesterol. Risk factors that you can control include:
• Poor diet
• Lack of exercise
Everyone could probably benefit from having an occasional blood test for cholesterol levels (say every five years), but if you are at more risk than average (eg. Being overweight, heart disease, high blood pressure, or history of smoking) then your doctor will want to test more frequently.
As with most medical issues, Cholesterol is not just one simple compound, but is of various types, including “HDL”, which is good for you, and “LDL” which is bad for you, so it’s not just a matter of measuring your total cholesterol.
A test will give you these measures:
Total Cholesterol, made up of HDL (Good) cholesterol, and non-HDL cholesterol.
The non-HDL figure mostly comprises the amount of LDL (Bad) cholesterol, which you may be given separately.
You may also be given a measure of a related compound called triglyceride, a high level of which can also increase your risk of heart disease.
For older adults, the figures that are ideal are:
Total Cholesterol should be less than 5 mmol/L
HDL (good) levels should be greater than 1 mmol/L
Non-HDL should be less than 4 mmol/L (includes LDL)
LDL (bad) should be less than 3 mmol/L
Another measure often taken at the same time is of Triglycerides, which should be below 1.7 mmol/L
Having too high a level, particularly of LDL (bad) cholesterol, is a concern. Although medication can help, the key to getting to normal levels is through diet and lifestyle.
So if your cholesterol levels are outside the recommended limits, then you need to take action, as in the Mayo recommendations above, in summary:
• Avoid or at least reduce consumption of meat, dairy products and biscuits etc.
• If your BMI or waistline is larger than average, then change your eating habits.
• Get regular exercise.
• If you smoke, quit.
• If you have diabetes, or are borderline, cut right down on your sugar intake.
If you want to avoid getting unsatisfactory levels in the first place, then of course the same recommendations apply.
Link to my post on “Heart Disease”
Link to my post on “Alzheimer’s Disease“