Your lipid profile is an overall assessment of your cardiac health. It consists of four numbers reflective of the amount of total cholesterol, high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein cholesterol and triglyceride levels of your blood. Once you understand what these numbers mean, you can make lifestyle changes accordingly to decrease or increase them to lower your cardiac risk and increase your health.
Understand your numbers. An optimal total cholesterol level is less than 200 mg/dl. For your HDL cholesterol, the higher your level, the lower your risk for cardiac implications such as heart disease. You want your HDL to be at least 60 mg/dl to lower your risk from average. Conversely, the healthiest LDL cholesterol levels are those below 100 mg/dl. For triglycerides, aim for a level below 150 mg/dl.
Increase your high-density lipoprotein -- or HDL -- cholesterol levels. Health-care professionals refer to HDL as good cholesterol. There are several changes to your lifestyle you can make to boost your HDL number. If you smoke, quit. If you are overweight, you can increase your HDL 1 mg/dl for every 6 lbs. you lose. Find ways to get more physical activity, as well as ways to replace your saturated fat intake with healthier fats. Also, watch your alcohol intake. Moderate alcohol consumption is associated with higher HDL levels, but excessive alcohol consumption is not healthy and poses additional health risks unrelated to cholesterol.
Lower your low-density lipoprotein -- or LDL -- cholesterol, which doctors refer to as bad cholesterol. A good way to do this is through diet. Increase your dietary fiber intake to include more soluble fiber to lower absorption of cholesterol from your gastrointestinal tract. Do this by eating more whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables and legumes. Obesity is a risk factor for a high LDL level. Dietary modifications like this will also help you manage your weight. The same is true of exercise and other means of physical activity. The more physical activity you get, the higher the impact on your LDL level. And as is the case with HDL cholesterol, keep your alcohol consumption in check.
Implement changes to lower your triglyceride level. Avoid high-sugar foods and processed and refined foods. These simple carbohydrates tend to contribute to a high triglyceride level. The same is true of trans fats, which is why you should eliminate them from your diet altogether. Replace these fats with healthier fats, such as those found in plants, healthy oils and some fish. Other interventions to reduce triglycerides are the same as those for lowering other components of your lipid profile. If necessary, comply with your doctor's guidelines for losing weight, increasing physical activity, decreasing alcohol consumption and smoking cessation.
If lifestyle changes are not enough, expect your doctor to recommend medications, such as niacin or statin drugs, to help better your cholesterol numbers.
If you have other risk factors for heart disease, such as diabetes and hypertension, in addition to high cholesterol, follow your doctor's advice for managing them to prevent increasing your cardiac risk.