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Lifestyle Choices for Wellness

Timely discussion on topics of health and wellness to encourage action and improvement in personal wellness.

2/15/2013- Know Your Numbers: Part II

Last week's entry began the discussion about assuming responsibility for one's own health. In lieu of Heart Health Month, I acknowledged the impact that heart related conditions have on the lives of Americans. High blood pressure and high cholesterol levels are two things in OUR control that contribute to cardiac related deaths.

So when it comes to cholesterol, reports from the CDC find:

  • 71 million American adults (33.5%) have high LDL, or "bad," cholesterol.
  • Less than half of adults with high LDL cholesterol get treatment.
  • People with high total cholesterol have approximately twice the risk of heart disease as people with optimal levels. A desirable level is lower than 200 mg/dL.
  • The average total cholesterol level for adult Americans is about 200 mg/dL, which is borderline high risk.

So, what does this mean to YOU? It means, find out your numbers to see if YOU are a statistic.

The National Institute of Health suggests everyone age 20 and older should have his or her cholesterol measured at least once every five years. A blood test will reveal levels of the following:

  • Total cholesterol–a measure of the total amount of cholesterol in your blood, including low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol and high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol.
  • LDL (bad) cholesterol–the main source of cholesterol buildup and blockage in the arteries
  • HDL (good) cholesterol–HDL helps remove cholesterol from your arteries
  • Triglycerides–another form of fat in your blood that can raise your risk for heart disease
There are certain risk factors that are related to elevated cholesterol levels. Some of these include: cigarette smoking, high bood pressure, low HDL cholesterol, family history and age.

The table below comes from the National Institute of Health. See how your cholesterol numbers compare!

Total Cholesterol Level


Less than 200mg/dL Desirable
200-239 mg/dL Borderline high
240mg/dL and above High

LDL (Bad) Cholesterol Level

LDL Cholesterol Category

Less than 100mg/dL Optimal
100-129mg/dL Near optimal/above optimal
130-159 mg/dL Borderline high
160-189 mg/dL High
190 mg/dL and above Very High

HDL (Good) Cholesterol Level

HDL Cholesterol Category

Less than 40 mg/dL A major risk factor for heart disease
40–59 mg/dL The higher, the better
60 mg/dL and higher Considered protective against heart disease

A variety of things can affect cholesterol levels that YOU can control! That's the good news!

  • Diet. Saturated fat and cholesterol in the food you eat make your blood cholesterol level rise. Saturated fat is the main problem, but cholesterol in foods also matters. Reducing the amount of saturated fat and cholesterol in your diet helps lower your blood cholesterol level.
  • Weight. Being overweight is a risk factor for heart disease. It also tends to increase your cholesterol. Losing weight can help lower your LDL and total cholesterol levels, as well as raise your HDL and lower your triglyceride levels.
  • Physical Activity. Not being physically active is a risk factor for heart disease. Regular physical activity can help lower LDL (bad) cholesterol and raise HDL (good) cholesterol levels. It also helps you lose weight. You should aim to be physically active for 30 minutes on most, if not all, days.
Get busy taking control of your heart during Heart Health Month!

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