By Valerie Beard, MD
Riverview Health Physicians
Good cholesterol. Bad cholesterol. What number should be high? Which one should be low? If you’re not quite sure, you’re not alone.
Cholesterol is a lipid, or fat. Your liver produces roughly 75 percent of your cholesterol—only 25 percent comes from your diet. Nearly 20 percent of American women have cholesterol problems, but many don’t know it.
Good and bad cholesterol
There are two different types of cholesterol, including low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and high-density lipoprotein (HDL). HDL is often called the “good” cholesterol and LDL is the “bad” cholesterol.
In a nutshell, here’s why they’re good or bad: The job of the HDL is to carry cholesterol back to the liver, where it’s excreted. But if your blood has more bad cholesterol than good, those “bad” LDL particles can clog your arteries, making them hard and putting you at a greater risk for heart disease and stroke.
Unfortunately, your genetics may also make you more predisposed to making too much LDL. Too little exercise and eating a diet high in fat puts you at greater risk, too. To determine your levels, you’ll need a blood test. The American Heart Association recommends that all women age 20 and older have a cholesterol test every five years.
Understanding your numbers
The results of your blood test will measure HDL, LDL and triglyceride (another blood fat) levels:
- Your HDL level should be higher than 50 mg/dL
- Your LDL level should be less than, or near, 100 mg/dL
- Your triglyceride level should be around 150 mg/dL
Your test results will also include your total cholesterol level, and a level of LESS than 200 mg/dL is good.
If you have a family history of high cholesterol or if your test results are poor, you and your healthcare provider should discuss managing your cholesterol. This often means dietary changes and exercising more or even taking medication. Your treatment plan will depend on many factors—that’s why it’s so important to know your numbers and to talk with your healthcare provider about the ways you can keep them in a healthy range.
Source: CDC.gov, Heart.org