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Understanding and Improving Your Cholesterol – I

by abstress1

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It is incumbent upon each one of us to be aware of the risk factors that could severely alter our lives, triggers that if not watched or monitored closely could have a detrimental effect on us. For instance, eighty percent of women in the United States between 18 and 44 do not know their cholesterol level. Heart disease is the leading killer of women and high cholesterol is a major risk factor. By remaining ignorant of this fact, thousands of women could be adversely affected.

A survey conducted by the Society for Women’s Health Research revealed the above statistic. Their survey was done in an effort to challenge people (especially women) to become more cognizant of the diseases that affect us, especially in light of the fact that some of those diseases are highly preventable.

Having your cholesterol tested is a relatively simple procedure. Once you have been given your cholesterol number, below is a chart of what those numbers mean to you:

Optimal Numbers:

Total Cholesterol: < 200
LDL-Cholesterol: < 100
HDL-Cholesterol: 40 or higher
Cholesterol Ratio: less than 5
LDL-Cholesterol (remember L for Lousy)

According to the National Institutes of Health, the optimal level of LDL cholesterol for both men and women should be below 100 mg/dL. A test result that revealed you had high LDL cholesterol would be defined as 160 mg/dL and higher. The higher your LDL cholesterol, the greater risk you stand of developing life-threatening plaque. Plaque gathers in the arteries leading to and away from our heart and carry blood and other nutrients to other parts of our body. The plaque thickens in these arteries, causing blockages and in many instances, heart attacks.

HDL-Cholesterol (remember H for Hero)

HDL cholesterol, on the other hand, is like nature’s plaque vacuum cleaner — it picks up the vessel-clogging cholesterol and carries it away to the liver, where it is disposed of in the form of bile. The higher your HDL levels, the cleaner your blood vessels will be. Again, according to the National Institutes of Health, people with HDL of 60 mg/dL or higher have a lower occurrence and/or likelihood of heart disease. However, a measurement of HDL below 40 mg/dL is considered too low.

Because HDL is so important to the health of blood vessels, some physicians prefer to talk about the cholesterol ratio — your total cholesterol divided by your HDL cholesterol. For example, if your total cholesterol number is 250 and your HDL is 50, your ratio is 250/50 or 5. A ratio of 3.5 (or less) is considered optimal, and people are urged to aim for a ratio less than 5.

If your LDL-cholesterol is elevated and you are overweight, focus on losing weight. Research has shown that losing just 10 pounds can reduce LDL cholesterol by 5 to 8 percent. Becoming more physically active, if even moderate levels of exercise can help improve your cholesterol, as well as triglycerides and blood pressure. Eliminate or at least drastically limit the foods you eat that contain saturated fats, trans fats, dietary cholesterol and refined carbohydrates. For more visit

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