Measuring and Controlling Cholesterol

Cholesterol Basics

More than half of Americans, and according to American Heart Association figures, most of them have less than desirable cholesterol levels. What this means is that every other person walking down the street is at risk for some sort of heart disease. But how do we know how grave those risks are when we are looking at ourselves? These numbers help the average person make cholesterol levels and risks understandable and because of this it can also make establishing achievable goals easier. Actually achieving them, of course, is something else altogether, but I digress.

Measuring Your own Cholesterol Levels

There are actually five different ways to measure for a complete reading on your own cholesterol levels and they are: total, HDL, LDL, total/HDL ratio, LDL/HDL ratio. These measurements are actually categorized as desirable, borderline, and of course, at risk. Measurement units are milligrams per deciliter. It is extremely misleading to consider any of them on their own. Consult your health practitioner to best understand your cholesterol levels and what, if anything, to do about them or how to maintain them properly.

Here is how it really works in the numbers. Total desirable is below 200 mg/dL, total borderline level is 200 to 240 and total risk above level 240. HDL ideal level is above 45 mg/dL, HDL borderline is 35 to 45 and HDL at risk below 35. LDL ideal level is below 130 mg/dL, LDL borderline is 130 to 160 and LDL at risk above 160. Total/HDL ideal ratio is below 4.5, total/HDL borderline is 4.5 to 5.5 and total/HDL at risk is above 5.5. LDL/HDL ideal ratio is below 3, LDL/HDL borderline is 3 to 5 and LDL/HDL and at risk is above 5. Whew! That is a lot of numbers!

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What all of that shows is that one very important set of numbers that you will want to bear in mind as you face your own cholesterol levels is that every milligram per deciliter makes a very large difference: with a 10 mg/dL drop in your overall cholesterol comes an approximate 40 percent decrease in risk of heart disease. Isn’t that a good enough reason for you to want to do something about it?

When it comes to actually doing something about your cholesterol levels, a balanced diet, combined with a good fitness regimen is your best bet in combating high cholesterol. You have to be both active and eat right to maintain the right balance. You can look to the my pyramid charts as a means of being sure that your eating habits are balanced. Supplements of vitamins will not be able to compensate for your poor eating. You have to eat whole foods for any of this to be effective, and you must lay off of heavy fatty foods and junk food to keep your cholesterol balanced.

Controlling Your Cholesterol

How you should best control it if you have high cholesterol depends on how high it is and why it is so high in the first place. By doing this you will at least be aware of the risk of having high cholesterol. You may already know that you have it. You may just want to learn more about it. Either way, you will need to get a grip on your cholesterol and get informed about controlling it.

You may know that cholesterol plays a significant and decisive role to heart disease. You probably already know that the primary cause of heart attack and stroke are clogged arteries, and blood clots because of those arteries traveling to either the heart or the brain, and that high cholesterol is what clogs the arteries. You likely already know that it is important to control high cholesterol before it gets to be high. If you don’t….now you do.

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If you have high cholesterol, you are going to want to lower it. If you don’t, you want to know how to avoid getting it in the first place. Your first step to control high cholesterol is to establish healthy eating habits, healthy exercise habits and healthy drinking and smoking habits. When I say healthy habits there is a meaning to this.

Healthy smoking habits are not smoking cigarettes and cigars that are healthy it is a fireplace with the vent open, meat or vegetables on the grill, or perhaps fireworks in July. Tobacco smokers have a single advantage over nonsmokers: if they quit they raise their HDL cholesterol levels very quickly, and that’s a good thing. Healthy drinking habits are a little less crazy than smoking. Indications today state that a glass of red wine a day actually helps raise HDL cholesterol.

Healthy exercise habits mean regular aerobic exercise at least several times a week. This can be walking for 30 minutes, tennis, running, cycling, volleyball. Whatever you enjoy doing and it gives you a good cardiovascular workout. Healthy eating habits are one of the best ways to control high cholesterol. If you do this it will give you higher HDL and, more importantly, much lower LDL. What these whole foods do place more emphasis on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes and less on animal products that are high in saturated fats and they focus less on processed foods. They could mean the difference from you having a heart strong enough body to maintain it properly.

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