The Math Of Cholesterol: Adding Up The Numbers To Check Your Health



Checking your cholesterol used to be an easy affair, with your doctor reporting to you one number. However, as medical science has advanced, cholesterol knowledge has changed and three or more numbers are typically now reported. Getting more than one number can be confusing, and even if your doctor explains it to you in the examination room, it is difficult to remember once you get home. This can also be confusing if you purchase a home cholesterol testing kit. The math of cholesterol is not as difficult as it seems, however, and by learning the differences between the numbers, you can understand how to keep your body healthy.

First, you will be given a number for LDL cholesterol, or low density lipoprotein cholesterol. This is commonly referred to as "bad cholesterol" and you can remember this by using the L to stand for Lower-you want to be sure to lower this type of cholesterol. LDL cholesterol makes up about 65-75% of your total cholesterol level, and everyone should seek for a number lower than 130. Because LDL cholesterol is the type that causes heart attacks, if you have other risk factors such as obesity or a family history of heart disease, you want to keep this number even lower, less than 100 if possible. Diet is the main way to lower high LDL levels.

The second number on your cholesterol report is your HDL cholesterol, or high density lipoprotein cholesterol. This is commonly referred to as "good cholesterol" and you can remember this by using the H to stand for healthy-high levels of HDL cholesterol are encouraged. A value of 35 or higher is recommended for men, and 40 or higher for women. Women have an easier time raising HDL levels than men do, but this can be done through exercise and not smoking.

The last number on your report will be a total cholesterol level, although if you add your LDL and HDL numbers, you will not get the total, as there are other cholesterol levels measured as well. It is most important to worry about LDL and HDL-if you keep these numbers at normal levels, your total cholesterol level will be fine. Consult your doctor if you have further questions, and remember that good cholesterol should not need to be dependent on medication. By exercising regularly, eating a low cholesterol diet, and living a healthy lifestyle, you can usually keep these levels under control.


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