Cholesterol doesn’t come only from the foods you eat. Your body makes about 75 percent, and the rest comes from food, according to the American Heart Association. The results of cholesterol testing help determine your risk for heart disease, the leading cause of death in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
If you recently had your cholesterol checked, your doctor likely ordered a blood test, the fasting lipid profile, to measure your total cholesterol. The total cholesterol reading represents both the HDL, or "good," and LDL, or "bad," cholesterol. The National Cholesterol Education Program classifies total cholesterol levels as desirable if lower than 200; borderline high if 200 to 239; and high if greater than 240. A cholesterol level of 200 or higher raises your risk for heart disease, according to the American Heart Association.
When you get your total cholesterol results, ask your doctor for your LDL level. The National Cholesterol Education Program reported in its 2001 ATP III summary report that elevated LDL cholesterol is a major cause of heart disease. The report classifies LDL cholesterol levels as optimal if it is lower than 100; borderline high if 130 to 159; and high if 160 to 189. If you have other risk factors for heart disease, such as diabetes, your doctor may want you to lower your LDL cholesterol.
HDL is “good cholesterol” because higher levels help protect against heart disease by removing excess cholesterol from your arteries (See Ref 2). The National Cholesterol Education Program classifies a HDL level greater than 40 as desirable (see ref 1 pg 3). A heart healthy diet and regular physical activity can increase HDL levels.
Keeping Total Cholesterol Normal
Lifestyle modifications can help keep cholesterol levels below 200. Following a heart healthy diet will help lower total cholesterol and increase HDL cholesterol. A heart-healthy diet offers high fiber, low sodium and low fat. Achieve this by eating more fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat protein and by reducing your salt intake.
- National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute; Third Report of the National Cholesterol Education Program on Adult Treatment Panel III, Excutive Summary; May 2001
- American Heart Association: Good vs. Bad Cholesterol
- American Heart Association: About Cholesterol
- American Heart Association: What Your Cholesterol Level Means