The question: My cholesterol levels are high. What does that mean and what should I do about it?
Cholesterol is integral to life, but too much can accelerate the process of atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), thereby increasing the risk of heart attack, stroke and other cardiovascular diseases.
Most bodily cholesterol is synthesized by the liver, and is largely independent of dietary intake. The extent to which your body manufactures cholesterol is determined by genetic factors and metabolism, but can be modified by exercise, diet and various medications designed to lower cholesterol. Foods high in cholesterol that might be avoided include: egg yolks, red meat, cheese, processed meats, ice cream, butter and fried foods. Foods that may actually help to lower cholesterol are: oats, barley, whole grains, nuts, soy, beans, eggplant, fatty fish, apples, grapes and vegetable oils such as sunflower, safflower and canola.
So, what do the numbers mean? The American Heart Association guidelines for cholesterol management are as follows:
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Below 200 mg/dL: Desirable
200-239 mg/dL: Borderline High
Above 240 mg/dL: High
As part of an annual physical, your doctor will order a fasting lipid profile blood test that looks at the components of the fats that circulate in your blood stream. These include: HDL, LDL, VLDL (High, Low, and Very Low Density Lipoproteins) and triglycerides. Elevated LDL increases your chances of cardiovascular disease, while elevated HDL decreases the risk. Triglycerides below 150 mg/dL are also desirable.
— Mark Melrose, DO, is a board-certified emergency physician at Urgent Care Manhattan. E-mail him your questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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