Cholesterol test numbers can be confusing, especially if you don't know their significance. Once you determine what healthy cholesterol levels are and why they are important, you can make educated choices about how to control them.
Cholesterol is the build-up of plaque along your artery walls. Eventually, the narrowing of the passages makes it difficult for blood to flow to your heart and to your brain.
HDL cholesterol is considered "good" because it carries cholesterol away from the arteries. A higher HDL level lowers your risk of a heart attack. LDL is referred to as "bad" cholesterol, since it builds up in your arteries and increases your risk of heart problems. Your total cholesterol is the measure of HDL, LDL and triglycerides in your body.
Optimal HDL levels are 60 mg/dl or higher, and optimal LDL levels are under 129 mg/dl. Ideal total cholesterol levels fall under 200 mg/dL.
You should make dietary and lifestyle changes if your cholesterol is between 200 and 239 mg/dl in order to avoid reaching a number above 240 mg/dl. Having a number in the very high range doubles your risk of coronary heart disease.
For desirable cholesterol levels, monitor your intake of dietary cholesterol. Pay close attention to saturated and trans fats, which are known to raise cholesterol levels. Maintain a healthy weight, exercise and avoid smoking. Also, talk with your doctor about cholesterol-lowering medicines.
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