Monday, December 18, 2006

How to read that Cholesterol Report

One of our readers wrote:

Dr, I love food, but my last cholesterol report showed that my cholesterol level is 324. Should I be concerned?

Why bother about cholesterol levels?

Think of your arteries as the piping of your kitchen sink and cholesterol as the oils that you flush down the sink everyday. If you ever have the privilege of opening up the pipe, you will get a dark sticky layer of gunk coating the inside of the pipe. This is similar to what cholesterol does to your arteries. Prolonged elevation of cholesterol will lead to narrowing of the arteries. If the arteries to the heart are blocked, you get a heart attack. If the arteries to the brain are blocked, you get a stroke.

How to read that Cholesterol Report

This is what a typical Cholesterol Report looks like. Let me highlight to you what is important.


This is related to having too many calories in the diet. Calories from sugar and other carbohydrates like rice, cakes, pasta etc are converted to Triglycerides to be stored in the body.
While the link between Triglycerides and Heart Disease is not has strong as with Cholesterol, it should not be allowed to get too high as it may lead to other problems such as pancreatitis and diabetes mellitus.

What to do?

Lose weight, cut down on sweets, soft drinks and alcoholic drinks, esp Beer. Omega 3 fish oils may be of benefit. If your Triglyceride levels are very high, (>400) the Doctor may prescribe some medications to lower it.

Total Cholesterol

People always tend to look at this but usually we don't use this number to determine if you need to take medications. That is because the Total Cholesterol is made up of the LDL and the HDL, so if your LDL is low but HDL is high, you might have a high Total Cholesterol level, but it may not necessarily be bad since it is good for the HDL to be high.

HDL Cholesterol

This is what we call "Good Cholesterol". The higher the better. Less than 40 is no good. Excercise can help raise HDB Cholesterol levels.

LDL Cholesterol

This is the one that we look at to determine if you need medications. Your target LDL level depends on you and the number of risk factors you have for developing heart disease. So for example, a 60 year old man who is obese, smokes has high blood pressure and diabetes will require his LDL levels to be <100. style="font-weight: bold;">The bottomline is that the LDL levels need to be adjusted to individual needs.

The Total Cholesterol/HDL ratio

This one is useful for research purposes. But in essence if your Ratio is low is good because it shows that you have a high HDL level compared to the LDL.

Want to know what your chances of getting a heart attack is over the next 10 years?

If you have your cholesterol report and blood pressure readings, you can calculate your 10 year CardioVascular Risk by clicking here

For more information about your Cholesterol Levels, click here


Jian said...

So how do we lower LDL and increase HDL? Do foods high in saturated fats raise cholesterol levels? What abt eating shellfish and eggs? Thanks.

Dr Leslie said...

That's a good question, I will write a blog on it soon

Anonymous said...

Hi DR,
Is it okie to give my children (ages:- 1.5yrs & 2.5yrs) everyday eat 1 or 2 egg yolks? Do I need to worry abt the calories intakes or cholesterol level? Pls help to advice. Thanks!

Dr Leslie said...

Eggs are a wonderful and cheap source of nutrition for kids. An egg a day is fine but don't overdo it. Everything in moderation.

moccy said...

Hi, Dr. Tay, thank you for the tips on cholesterol.

I'd like to have your advise, is there any minimum level for LDL?

My father is very concerned with his cholesterol level. He has very tight diet on cutting fatty food and still taking medicine to lower down cholesterol. His HDL is high, but LDL is very low, if I'm not mistaken it was below 40. Is it ok?

Jasmine said...

Hello Dr Tay,

From above u replied that an egg a day is fine for children as egg is wonderful and cheap source of nutrition for them. My children who are now in pri2 and pri4 are still eating a hard boiled egg every morning before they go sch as breakfast since 3 yrs old. Is it ok? Can you in more detail for what age range children still can eat an egg a day as source of nutrition. As I scare that I overdo it for their age now.

Dr Leslie said...

Cholesterol is an important building block so for kids who are growing up, they need it to grow. An egg a day is fine. That is what I give my daughter.

How To Lower Cholesterol said...

It is better to have a general check up to know the status of your health. Good thing you got a check up. Thanks for the information.