Understanding cholesterol: What's good, bad & what can I do?
You hear a lot about your cholesterol these days – especially what foods can lower it. Eat more oatmeal and less read meat, more nuts and less sugar, etc., but, when you’re told your cholesterol number, how do you know what it means?
Let’s start with the basics. Cholesterol is found in all the cells in your body and your body produces all the cholesterol you need, but you can also get cholesterol from the food you eat.
There are 2 types of cholesterol: HDL and LDL.
HDL cholesterol is your “good” cholesterol. You should strive to have your HDL cholesterol above 60.
> 60 Good
< 40 Bad
That makes sense, right? You want a higher level of good cholesterol than you do bad cholesterol.
LDL cholesterol is considered your bad cholesterol and you should strive to have this number below 100.
< 100 Optimal
100 - 129 Above Optimal
130 – 159 Borderline High
160 – 189 High
> 190 Very high
Now I know what the numbers mean, but what do I do about it?
If your cholesterol numbers fall within the optimal range, then keep up the good work! Those numbers show you are living a healthy lifestyle.
If your cholesterol numbers are outside of the normal range, however, you are at an elevated risk for heart problems and should see a doctor to help manage it. Here are a few tips to lower it:
- Schedule an appointment with a primary care provider. High cholesterol requires medical diagnosis and can be treated by medication. If you are diagnosed with high cholesterol and need additional medical attention, your primary care provider will connect you with a cardiologist. They will work together to provide you with a comprehensive treatment plan.
- Exercise. It’s recommended to exercise 30 minutes a day for 5 days a week.
- Lose weight. If you are overweight or obese, lose at least 5 percent of body fat.
- Change what you eat. Avoid foods that raise cholesterol like fatty, fried, greasy food. Add foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains and beans to lower cholesterol.