If you’re over 20 years old, chances are your doctor has recommended that you get your cholesterol checked. So, what’s the big deal about managing your cholesterol and what exactly do your test results mean?
Why is it important to test your cholesterol?
There are no known symptoms of high cholesterol, so chances are you won’t know if your levels are too high if you don’t get checked. A simple blood test (also called a fasting lipid panel) checks your overall cholesterol levels along with the following types of cholesterol:
- Low Density Lipoprotein or LDL (that’s the bad cholesterol)
- High Density Lipoprotein or HDL (that’s the good cholesterol)
- Triglycerides or fat in the blood
Desired cholesterol levels depend on age and other pre-existing medical conditions. Typically, the lower the LDL and triglyceride levels and the higher the HDL level, the better. Exact ranges can be discussed with your primary doctor or cardiologist. Depending on your results, you’ll need to get rechecked every four to six years.
How healthy is your heart? Take the first step towards a healthy heart by taking our free heart health risk assessment here.
What risks are associated with high cholesterol?
Elevated cholesterol is a risk factor for developing coronary artery disease or atherosclerosis, a chronic disease where cholesterol plaque builds up on the walls of the arteries leading to an obstruction of blood flow which can cause heart attacks and even death.
According to the Centers for Disease and Prevention Control, people with high cholesterol have about twice the risk of developing heart disease, the leading cause of death in Louisiana.
What are some ways to improve your cholesterol levels?
Once you know your cholesterol levels, it’s important to maintain or improve them for optimal heart health. If diagnosed with high cholesterol, there are some medications that can help, along with the following recommended lifestyle changes:
- Eat a heart healthy diet low in fats (Check out these 6 tips to maintain a heart-healthy diet.)
- Limit alcohol consumption
- Stop smoking
- Exercise regularly