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