Knowing your health numbers can help you manage your medical care. Cholesterol levels are key indicators of potential heart risks and some patients will want to get on top of checking them, earlier in their lives than others.
“Everybody has cholesterol, it’s just a question of whether or not you make the bad stuff, or not enough of the good stuff,” explains Dr. Lisa Young a Cardiologist for Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare.
She explains the ‘good’ HDL cholesterol is like a carrier, “that takes the bad stuff away.” The ‘bad’ cholesterol is the LDL, Dr. Young says.
“I explain it more as the cholesterol that actually plugs up the arteries. Think of it like peanut butter where you slowly clog up the water hose or you can’t deliver water, in this case blood and oxygen to the vessels.”
Most adults want their combined LDL and HDL numbers to be below 200 mg/dL. Screening starts at 20-years-old for most healthy patients, at least once a year.
“But if you have a significant family history then we’re actually now recommending that you screen kids,” says Dr. Young.
Aging women can also notice an abrupt change in their numbers.
“Once you become menopausal, those hormone levels drop off, things can change rather dramatically,” says Dr. Young.
Those with diabetes or thyroid abnormalities can be at a higher risk of having high cholesterol and the troubles that are associated, including stroke and heart attack. The first line of defense in patients is often a change in diet and exercise.
“It can be as simple as walking. You don’t have to join a gym or buy a treadmill,” explains Dr. Young.
She suggests exercising 30-minutes a day, 5-days a week and cutting back on foods that are high in cholesterol and fat.