Cholesterol Explained | Testing Cholesterol Levels

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Get your Cholesterol Tested.

If the only thing you really know about your cholesterol is that the doc said it needs to get better – and eating Cheerios or Quaker Oats will help – you’ve come to the right place. If you know it’s important, but not really sure about anything after that – here’s a quick guide to understanding your cholesterol.

What is Cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a waxy substance that is a lipid, or fat, and found in every cell of the body. Everyone’s body naturally produces about 1000 milligrams of cholesterol each day. That’s plenty, and if that’s all we had – we’d survive. Good cholesterol is used to build cell walls, create some hormones and even digest fat. It’s been said that if your body has plenty of good cholesterol, it can even reduce your risk for heart disease. However, as we consume foods from animal products, we add more cholesterol to our bodies that what we need. Cholesterol attaches to proteins and travels around the body. It’s not dissolved by the blood. And if you have too much cholesterol in your body, you’re at risk for major problems – particularly those that effect your heart and possibly your brain.

What is a Bad cholesterol Level? How did it get there?

There is such thing as “bad” cholesterol and “good” cholesterol. “Bad” cholesterol is the kind that clogs your arteries and gives you a heart attack. “Good” cholesterol does just the opposite. Bad cholesterol gets its name from it’s harmful effect on your body. It creates plaque in your arteries. And just like the plaque on your teeth – it’s not pretty. Blood flow is restricted. And you might have major problems on your hands.

It’s assumed that if you’re pigging out on that cheeseburger every day – that’s when you have bad cholesterol. And that is partly true. Some foods known for their high cholesterol levels are those like:

  • Bacon cheeseburgers
  • Eggs
  • Fried chicken, steak and pork chops
  • Curly fries
  • Corn dogs
  • Ice cream sundaes
  • Fried cheese

You get the idea.

However- a poor diet isn’t the only way you can have bad cholesterol. Unfortunately for some, it’s genetic. For others in the aging process – it’s a part of getting older.

How Can I Improve my Cholesterol?

Luckily, cholesterol levels are something you can have some control over. Even if you’re genetically predisposed to have higher levels. Some need medication to get their cholesterol under control. But for others, cholesterol can be improved by watching your weight, improving diet and increasing exercise. The American Heart Association recommends that each person gets 300 milligrams of cholesterol a day – less if you have high cholesterol. This means that your diet needs to be full of more fruits, veggies, whole grains, fish, beans – the kind of stuff that contains no cholesterol (if it doesn’t come from an animal – and it’s not dipped in hydrogenated oils – it doesn’t have cholesterol.) Also, physical exercise can lower your bad cholesterol level, too.

Good cholesterol can also lower your bad cholesterol. These proteins run around the body, and take extra cholesterol the cells don’t need, and put them back in the liver (rather than let them sit there and attach to the blood vessels.) The biggest way to improve good cholesterol in your body is to change your lifestyle. Smoking lowers good cholesterol – those who quit smoking can improve it by 10%. Also, a healthy diet and plenty of exercise boosts good cholesterol numbers. Drinking in moderation (one/day) may also help.

Get Rid of the Fat

Fat is just a pile of bad cholesterol. Consider buying leaner meats, and trimming off any fat when possible. Also, think about how you cook your foods. Turn to roasting, broiling and grilling over frying goods to avoid adding extra fats. If you’re going to use oils, turn to canola, peanut and olive, which are said to have good cholesterol qualities.

How do I Know my Cholesterol Level?

According to the National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP) “All adults age 20 or older should have a fasting lipoprotein profile — which measures total cholesterol, LDL (bad) cholesterol, HDL (good) cholesterol and triglycerides — once every five years.”

We offer a cholesterol test in Kansas City, and residents have been using our reports to know the status of their heart health. Our cholesterol test reports on total cholesterol, bad cholesterol levels, good cholesterol levels and triglycerides.

To understand your report, refer to the American Heart Association’s cholesterol levels chart.

Why Bother with Cholesterol?

There are some things about our bodies that we can’t change. Height and weight – that’s fixed. Diagnosed with breast cancer? Can’t control that one. But something like your cholesterol level – you can change that. Improving your diet and increasing your physical activity is a small price to pay to strengthen your heart. Don’t live your life and find yourself looking back one day, wishing you had passed up that burger and fries. Get your cholesterol levels checked today, and on the path toward health this holiday season.

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