Cholesterol: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Cholesterol: Good, Bad and UglyGetting a cholesterol test is simple. Making sense of the results can be more complex.

You’re likely to wind up with a confusing array of numbers. Your health care provider can help you make sense of it all, but consider focusing on LDL, or “bad,” cholesterol.

This fatty substance can lead to the buildup of plaque, a thick, hard deposit in artery walls. Without intervention, plaque can clog arteries that deliver blood to the heart and brain, putting you at serious risk for a heart attack or stroke.

Down with the Bad
To help bring LDL down:

  • Follow a heart-healthy diet. Control your intake of saturated and trans fats. Eat more soluble fiber found in beans and oatmeal.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Get regular physical activity. If possible, engage in aerobic exercise, such as brisk walking, cycling, or swimming laps. Get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity every week.
  • Quit smoking.
  • Take cholesterol medications if lifestyle changes aren’t enough.

Up with the Good
Meanwhile, don’t ignore HDL. This “good” cholesterol appears to protect against heart attack by slowing the growth of plaque in the arteries. That means you want this number to go up.

Some things you can do to lower bad cholesterol also tend to raise good cholesterol. For example, HDL tends to increase if you lose weight, increase your physical activity, and quit smoking.

And what about triglycerides? They’re another indicator of heart disease risk. Your level is likely to be high if you’re overweight, have diabetes or metabolic syndrome, eat a very high carbohydrate diet, or have a very high alcohol intake.

Cholesterol is part of a series of factors that affect your risk for heart disease, such as age, family history, smoking, diabetes, high blood pressure, and being overweight. All of these risk factors work together.

Schedule the Screening
When was the last time you got your cholesterol checked? Most people need testing every four to six years. If you’re due for this important screening, make an appointment with your primary care provider. Don’t have a PCP? Or looking for a new one? We can help with that!