Cholesterol: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

Cholesterol: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

By Karen Honermann, RNKaren Honermann

September is National Cholesterol Education Month—a good time to learn about the different types of cholesterol, get your blood cholesterol checked and consider lifestyle choices that help you reach personal cholesterol goals.

Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance found in your body and many foods. Your body needs cholesterol to function normally and makes all that you need. Sometimes too much bad cholesterol can build up in your arteries. After a while, these deposits narrow your arteries and can put you at risk for heart disease and stroke. High cholesterol usually doesn’t have any symptoms. As a result, many people do not know that their cholesterol levels are too high. A simple blood test can check your cholesterol.

The Good – HDL

HDL = Healthy

HDL stands for High Density Lipoprotein and is “good” cholesterol. It is a “Healthy” cholesterol, and you want it to be High. HDL attacks the bad cholesterol, LDL, and pulls it out of the bloodstream from the arteries and back to the liver where it’s broken down and passed from the body.

What is one thing you can do to increase your HDL? EXERCISE! It doesn’t just have to be running. There are so many activities that count as exercise such as dancing, vacuuming, gardening, shopping, etc.

The Bad – LDL

LDL = Lousy

LDL cholesterol is “bad” cholesterol. Think LDL as “Lousy cholesterol” that sticks and contributes to fatty buildup that narrows the arteries. If you have a tear, bump or something irregular in your blood vessel, LDL cholesterol will make its home there and, over time, can result in a heart attack or stroke. You want your LDL number to be low.

The Ugly – Triglycerides

Triglycerides are the most common type of fat in the body and store excess as fat. A high triglyceride level combined with high LDL cholesterol or low HDL cholesterol increases the risk of fatty buildups in artery walls.

“Triglycerides are directly affected by the simple sugar in your diet and also fat,” explains Char Chooima, Registered Dietitian, Murray County Medical Center. “Triglycerides are big and build up so when an artery is narrow, they can plug, clog or rip it. Sugar and alcohol intake directly impact your triglyceride levels.”

Desirable Cholesterol Levels:
Total Cholesterol……………………………Less than 200 mg/dL
Low LDL (“Bad” or “Lousy”)……………Less than 100 mg/dL
High HDL (“Good” or “Healthy)………50 mg/dL or higher
Triglycerides (“Ugly”)……………………..Less than 150 mg/dL

Factors that Affect Cholesterol Levels

A variety of factors can affect your cholesterol levels.

Some factors that make someone at higher risk for cholesterol are out of your control including:

  • Heredity
  • Age
  • Gender

Factors you can control include:

  • No smoking
  • Eating a healthy diet
  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Being physically active at least 30 minutes a day

Sometimes medications called statins might be added to your treatment plan. ALWAYS work with your medical provider to find the prevention and treatment plan that is best for YOU!

Know Your Cholesterol Numbers!

Here at Murray County Medical Center, you can take advantage of our Direct Access Laboratory which offers nearly 20 low cost lab tests, all year long! You can have a Lipid Panel (12 hour fast) which includes Cholesterol, Triglyceride, HDL and LDL. The lipid panel is a good test for the heart and blood vessels and checks good and bad cholesterol. A Lipid Panel is $30 and Direct Access Labs doesn’t require provider’s orders. You pay at the time of service and results are mailed to you within 5 business days.

Click here for more information on Direct Access Labs or call 507.836.1286.

 

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