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Learn more about cholesterol and how to improve your heart health
Learn more about cholesterol and how to improve your heart health
UAMS Wellness and Fitness summer vegetables

By the Numbers: Cholesterol – Watch the Video!

While the statistics are grim – heart disease can be more deadly than many types of cancer – there’s a lot you can do to improve your heart health. We are almost over saturated -- pun intended! -- with commercials and articles about cholesterol. You may not even fully understand what cholesterol is or that there are several numbers you should know to understand your heart health. At UAMS, we want you to have the information you need to improve your numbers. 
Cholesterol : Know Your Numbers
When you go to your doctor for a checkup, your provider will run some blood work to get a snapshot of what is going on in your body. Total cholesterol is one of the tests that is routinely ordered to look at your total state of health. Many things may affect your lab test results, and even the method each lab uses to do the test can affect the results. Your health care provider can talk to you about how your family history and any other risk factors relate to your individual test results
Total cholesterol is measured in milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL).
Keep in mind that your risk for heart disease based on your total cholesterol greatly depends on your HDL and LDL cholesterol levels and other risk factors.
If your HDL level is higher than the normal range, this is good news: HDL helps rid your system of LDL. It helps protect against heart problems such as atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries. Researchers think that a level of 60 mg/dL or higher may protect against heart disease.
If your levels of LDL-C are high, the condition is called dyslipidemia. High levels may mean that you have an imbalance in your diet, but the condition is often hereditary. Changing your lifestyle habits and taking medicines to reduce LDL levels may help you lower the risk for heart disease and manage the condition if you already have it.

So what are HDL and LDL?

An HDL cholesterol test measures the amount of high-density lipoprotein ("good") cholesterol in your blood. High HDL levels may lower your risk for heart disease. And again, your health care provider can help you interpret your individual test results.
LDL cholesterol is often called "bad" cholesterol because it causes plaque to build up inside your arteries and leads to heart disease. Results are given in milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL). The normal range of LDL-C is 50 to 130 mg/dL. A level below 70 mg/dL is considered best for people who have diabetes or heart disease risk factors. 

What about triglycerides?

Triglycerides are another class of fat found in the bloodstream. The bulk of your body's fat tissue is in the form of triglycerides
The link between triglycerides and heart disease is being studied. But many people with high triglycerides also have other risk factors, like high LDL levels or low HDL levels.

What causes elevated triglyceride levels?

A healthy triglyceride level is less than 150 mg/dl. High triglyceride levels may be caused by health conditions like diabetes, hypothyroidism, kidney disease or liver disease. Dietary causes of high triglyceride levels may include drinking a lot of alcohol and eating foods containing cholesterol, saturated fat and trans fat..

Eating a healthy balanced diet and moving more can help you decrease your “bad” cholesterol, increase your “good” cholesterol and help your triglycerides stay down. Although there are some people who have a genetic predisposition for issues with their cholesterol, a good diet and staying active will still be very beneficial to keeping your numbers on track.
Mandy Tennyson with Patient

How can good nutrition improve your numbers?

“Having a high cholesterol level puts you at risk for heart disease and other health problems,” said Mandy Tennyson, M.S., R.D., L.D., one of the dietitians at UAMS. "What you eat has a big effect on your body’s cholesterol level. Eating certain foods can raise your cholesterol. Other foods can help you lower it. Watching what you eat can help you get your cholesterol level under control.”
If you are concerned about your numbers, be sure to ask questions when you are in your doctor’s office. Different blood tests yield different results, and this can mean different things in combination with other results and factors. 

Healthy Recipes

Looking for some recipes to help with your numbers? Try some of our low cholesterol recipes in the UAMS Living Healthy library.

Have a healthy month!

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