While cholesterol has a bad reputation, the truth is that you need the right amounts of different types of this waxy substance in order for your body to work optimally. When you have too much or too little or one type or another, problems arise.
At Wasatch Peak Family Practice & Oceans Contours, our providers offer routine cholesterol checks as part of our primary care services. Our team helps patients in Layton, Utah, understand and manage their cholesterol so they can stay in the healthy range.
But how often should you have your numbers checked, and how can you tell what they mean? We’ve put together this informative guide to answer your questions.
When you have too much of the wrong type of cholesterol, it can block your arteries and lead to heart disease. Therefore, it's important to have your cholesterol checked regularly.
The only way to calculate your cholesterol levels is using a simple blood test called a “lipid profile.” Before your cholesterol check, you’ll need to fast for 8-12 hours. Your blood is sent to a lab, where they evaluate the distinct elements that create your total cholesterol.
At a minimum, healthy adults should have their cholesterol levels evaluated at least every 4-6 years. Patients with a higher risk or history of high cholesterol may need more frequent cholesterol checks. Your Wasatch Peak Family Practice & Oceans Contours provider may recommend an annual check to monitor your heart health.
The lipid profile shows you how much LDL (bad) cholesterol, HDL (good) cholesterol, triglycerides (a type of fat), and total cholesterol is in your blood. These numbers are measured in milligrams per deciliter of blood (mg/dL).
Let’s look closer at what each of these mean:
Even though they are often called “bad” cholesterol, low-density lipoproteins (LDLs) are necessary for your body to function. LDL cholesterol carries most of the cholesterol in your body to the cells and different body systems that need it to work properly.
Issues with LDL cholesterol come up when you have too much. Excess LDL cholesterol builds up on the walls of your arteries. This narrows the passageways and increases your risk of cardiovascular disease and heart attack.
Consuming an animal-based diet, eating foods high in trans and saturated fats, smoking, being overweight or obese, being sedentary, and eating too many processed foods elevate your LDL cholesterol.
Keep your LDL cholesterol level lower than 100 mg/dL.
High-density lipoproteins (HDLs) are referred to as “good” cholesterol because they lower your LDL cholesterol. Friendly HDLs bring excess LDL to your liver, removing it from the bloodstream. Your liver processes extra LDL cholesterol as waste, so it leaves your body.
Many Americans don’t have enough HDL cholesterol. This is largely due to the same poor diet that contributes to high LDL levels.
To raise your HDLs, avoid eating processed foods, reduce your consumption of animal products, and eat a healthy diet based on vegetables, lean proteins, fruits, and whole grains.
Keep your HDL cholesterol level greater than or equal to 60 mg/dL.
Your blood contains triglycerides, a type of fat used for energy. When you don’t burn off all triglycerides, your body stores them. Having a high number of triglycerides in your blood increases your risk of cardiovascular disease.
You can take steps to lower your triglyceride levels if they’re high by exercising, losing weight, making dietary changes, and cutting out alcohol.
Keep your triglycerides lower than 150 mg/dL.
Your provider calculates your total cholesterol using the above numbers. This number is a good way to evaluate your risk of heart disease. Part of this risk assessment involves looking at the ratio of your HDL to LDL cholesterol.
Keep your total cholesterol lower than 200 mg/dL.
Your cholesterol measurements only show you one piece of the overall picture of your health. Your provider uses the results of your cholesterol test along with other factors to create a complete picture of your health.
If your cholesterol numbers aren’t quite where they should be, your provider works with you to customize a cholesterol treatment plan to improve your health.
In most cases, lifestyle changes are enough to move your cholesterol in the right direction. For patients who need more help, your provider can prescribe medications to help manage your cholesterol.
To set up a cholesterol check, schedule an appointment online or over the phone at Wasatch Peak Family Practice & Oceans Contours in Layton, Utah. You can also message us online now!