To be sure that you cholesterol levels are healthy, experts recommend that all adults who are over the age of 20 have their cholesterol tested.
This ensures what your levels are and if you need to adopt certain lifestyle changes or take medication to improve them.
Doctors routinely recommend that patients with higher total cholesterol levels have a complete blood work up including a lipid profile test.
This measures the individual levels of both the “good” cholesterol,
known as HDL, the “bad” cholesterol, or LDL, as well as triglyceride
which are equally as important for good health.
What are Healthy Cholesterol Levels?
A healthy cholesterol level is anything that is below 200 mg/dl, which is 200 milligrams of cholesterol per deciliter of blood. This is the cut-off point for what’s considered healthy.
Anything over this amount is said to increase your risk of developing some type of cardiovascular problem, such as a stroke or heart attack due to built-up plaque in the arteries.
If you get very little exercise or you eat a diet rich in saturated fats, you may be at a considerable risk for high cholesterol. This may also lead to heart disease as a result.
If you have recently had a blood test to measure your cholesterol levels and your number fell between 200 and 239 mg/dl, you are considered to be at a moderate risk of developing some type of heart ailment.
If your number is below the 200 mark, you are then considered to be at a relatively low risk, while numbers over 240 mg/dl indicate a much higher risk of acquiring heart problems due to cholesterol.
Following a regular exercise regimen and eating foods low in saturated fats but high in fiber and vitamins will help to lower cholesterol levels in those who are considered to be “borderline.”
However, if your tests have shown unhealthy cholesterol levels that are dangerously high, your doctor may prescribe medications such as statins to lower them, in addition to advising you about the extreme importance of diet and exercise.
Learning About HDL – The Good Cholesterol
HDL, often called the good cholesterol, levels should ideally be between 40 and 50 mg/dl for the average man, while the average woman’s levels should be anywhere from 50 to 60 mg/dl. To increase this number, avoid cigarette smoke, maintain a healthy body weight, get regular exercise, and follow a heart-healthy diet.
LDL cholesterol, usually referred to as “bad cholesterol” levels are perhaps the best indicator as to determining a person’s risk of having a stroke, heart attack, or getting heart disease. This specific number is better able at assessing one’s risk, as opposed to a test that merely provides the total blood cholesterol number.
The optimal level of LDL cholesterol is below 100 mg/dl, while 130 to 159 is said to be borderline, and 160 to 189 mg/dl is considered to be a rather high level.
Any number over 190 mg/dl is said to seriously raise one’s chances of developing a serious health condition.
To find out your exact numbers, contact your doctor to arrange the appropriate blood tests.
Why is “Good Cholesterol” Good for You?
Good cholesterol, technically known as HDL or high density lipoprotein cholesterol, helps the body to transport cholesterol that’s manufactured naturally within the liver. It transforms it to a substance that can then be eliminated as waste, instead of allowing it to build up in the heart’s arterial walls, forming deadly plaque.
The correct levels of HDL will decrease your risk of cardiovascular complications. It also lowers the chances that proteins within LDL cholesterol will accumulate in the walls of your arteries, causing blockages and potentially life threatening conditions.
Your best course of defense is keeping that LDL number at a minimal, and keeping the HDL as high as possible to protect your body from the ravages of heart disease.
Despite the widely known importance of both, some doctors have the bad habit of only informing their patients about the dangers of having LDL cholesterol that’s too high.
Many doctors don’t put enough emphasis instead on how important it is to also keep levels of good cholesterol as high as possible.
Many people have completely normal total cholesterol levels, but may also have too much of the bad type within the blood, still raising their risk of heart conditions and ailments.
The National Cholesterol Education Program recommends that all adults over 20 years of age have their cholesterol levels tested every five years.
And to keep those levels below 200 mg/dl for total blood cholesterol, higher than 40 mg/dl for HDL or good cholesterol, and lower than 100 mg/dl for LDL, or bad cholesterol.
Increasing Good Cholesterol (HDL) Through Diet
Two types of fats, polyunsaturated and monounsaturated, are both classified as unsaturated fats.
These have been shown to reduce levels of LDL cholesterol, and also increase HDL to a healthier level.
For excellent sources of unsaturated fats, try eating seeds, nuts, or vegetable oils. Oils such as sunflower, corn, and soybean are high in polyunsaturated fats, while olive canola, and peanut oils contain more monounsaturated fats.
Eliminating or at least significantly reducing trans fats from the foods you eat helps to lower LDL, or bad levels of cholesterol, while increasing HDL, or the good cholesterol.
Carefully read all of the labels on the foods you buy or eat and try to avoid those that contain partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, which is a prime source of trans fats to ensure your cholesterol levels are healthy.
Nutritional experts also recommend having enough soluble fiber in the diet to increase good cholesterol and keep bad levels at a minimum.
Soluble fiber can be found in sources such as some fruits and vegetables, as well as legumes, and whole oats.
Ways of Increasing Your Good Cholesterol
Increasing your HDL or good cholesterol level can usually be achieved by regularly exercising. Doing simple activities such as walking, swimming, or bicycling, or as you advance and increase your strength and endurance, running or jogging.
If you are over your ideal weight limit, losing just a few pounds at a time will help to lower LDL or “bad” cholesterol, while increasing “good” or HDL healthy cholesterol.
Quitting smoking is another excellent way of increasing good cholesterol, as well as eliminating foods that are high in unhealthy fats from your regular diet.