Most people know at least a little bit about cholesterol and that having too much is a bad thing, but fewer people know that there is actually good cholesterol and bad cholesterol, and that other things – like triglycerides – also play a part in total cholesterol count. Here are the four major factors when it comes to determining your overall cholesterol count and assessing your risk for heart disease, diabetes, stroke and heart attacks:
HDL cholesterol – This is the good kind of cholesterol that appears to actually protect you against having a heart attack when levels are high and can increase your risk of heart disease when levels are too low.
LDL cholesterol – This is the bad cholesterol that everyone seems to be struggling to lower these days. High levels of LDL cholesterol increase your risk of stroke, heart attack and heart disease. This is also what is responsible for the plaque build-up in arteries that causes atherosclerosis.
Lp(a) cholesterol – This is related to LDL cholesterol, but is genetic. High levels of Lp(a) are believed to be a factor in fatty deposits in arteries.
Triglycerides – Triglycerides are made by the body and can be caused by overeating, smoking and not being active. Most folks who have high triglyceride levels also have high levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol and low levels of HDL (good) cholesterol.
Knowing your total cholesterol count is an important part of determining your risk level for various health issues, such as stroke and heart attack. Your healthcare provider can perform a simple blood test that will give you the information you need in order to determine if your cholesterol level may be increasing your risk.
Even if you live a relatively healthy lifestyle and eat a well-balanced diet, do not assume that this automatically means your cholesterol level is good. Genetic factors also come into play, so you might be surprised by your blood test results. This means that it is important for everyone to have this simple test as part of an overall plan for maintaining health and wellness. If you discover that your cholesterol levels are not where you would like them to be, a few simple changes to your diet and lifestyle might be all you need to get your cholesterol under control and improve your health, while reducing your risk for serious health issues.
A coming blog post will include tips for low cholesterol cooking and lifestyle modifications aimed at lowering cholesterol, so come back soon to learn more.