Understanding Cholesterol Numbers

posted in: Nutrition, Wellness | 0

In the United States, cholesterol levels are usually measured in mg or milligrams of cholesterol per dL or deciliter of blood (mg/dL). Often, other countries measure cholesterol in mmol or millimoles per liter (L) of blood (mmol/L).

All our members have numerous opportunities to have their lipids including cholesterol checked periodically.Once you receive your lipid profile or lipid panel results you will be able to determine if your cholesterol falls in a healthy range or in a potential danger zone.

Do You Have Healthy or Unhealthy Cholesterol Levels?

To understand your cholesterol levels it is important to understand some of your body’s processes.

Cholesterol, made in our liver, is a compound found in the majority of the tissues in our bodies, including our nerves and blood. It is a vital component of cell membranes and additionally works as a precursor for important steroid compounds.

Even though cholesterol is necessary for all animal life, high blood concentrations can prove dangerous and lead to plaque formation within arteries, or atherosclerosis.

Have you ever pulled out a hair clog from your bathroom drain? Perhaps it was all thick and sludgy and there was slimy soap scum residue that had built up over a long period of time. Some people use this analogy when describing what your cardiovascular veins and arteries look like with atherosclerosis.

Types of Cholesterol

There are 4 cholesterol numbers that you will be given after being tested with a simple fasting blood test from your doctor. These are:

  • High-Density Lipoprotein or HDL,
  • Low-Density Lipoprotein or LDL,
  • Triglycerides and
  • Total Cholesterol.

Total Cholesterol is considered to be desirable if it falls below 200 mg/dL (5.2 mmol/L).

  • It falls into the borderline high range if it measures 200-239 mg/dL (5.2 – 6.2 mmol/L).
  • High is above 240 mg/dL (6.2 mmol/L).

LDL Cholesterol  (think of L for  ‘Lousy’ cholesterol, due to its damaging effect on your cardiovascular system).  LDL Cholesterol  is considered to be near the ideal range if it falls in the range of 100-129 mg/dL (2.6-3.3 mmol/L range).

  • It is considered to be ideal for people at risk of heart disease if it measures below 100 mg/dL (2.6 mmol/L).
  • It is considered to be ideal for people at very high risk of heart disease if it falls below 70 mg/dL (1.8 mmol/L).
  • Borderline High is 130-159 mg/dL (3.4-4.1 mmol/L), and
  • High is considered 160-189 mg/dL (4.1-4.9 mmol/L) or above 190 mg/dL (4.9 mmol/L).

HDL Cholesterol (think H for ‘Healthy’ cholesterol, since it returns damaging LDL cholesterol back to the liver where it can be subsequently broken down). This is the only type of cholesterol where higher numbers are better. It is recommended that your HDL cholesterol should be above 60 mg/dL. If your numbers measure lower, a variety of changes to your lifestyle can help to increase it.

Triglyceride Levels are considered to be in the healthy range if they fall below 150 mg/dL.

There is another test you can ask for if you so desire. It is a VLDL.

Very Low Density Lipoprotein is made up of a type of fat, also known as triglycerides and is particularly harmful. The healthy range is considered between 2 to 30 mg/dL. Our lipid profile includes this test although some typical cholesterol panels do not generally include this. It is important if you have a family history of high cholesterol or heart disease.

Once you know your numbers you can take action where needed. If you need to lower your bad cholesterol numbers and raise the good levels, ask your health coach about making the necessary lifestyle changes to achieve your goals. If lifestyle changes do not result in suitable lipid levels after roughly 6 months, you may need to see your doctor for possible prescription medicines. Like hypertension, this hyperlipidemia is a silent, yet very serious, disease risk.