Understanding more about your cholesterol levels
A great deal of fuss is made about having normal cholesterol levels , but few people understand what normal levels of cholesterol really are. For that matter, most people don’t understand the differences between the three different types of cholesterol found in your blood. High-density lipids, or HDL, are the “good” cholesterols, helping keep your blood stream cleansed of plaques. Low-density lipids, or LDLs, are the “bad” cholesterols, clogging your arteries with fats and eventually leading to heart disease and hardening of the arteries, among other things. Triglycerides are the third type, and are also bad for you.
If you look at your overall cholesterol level without breaking it down, you’re not getting the whole picture. Normal blood cholesterol levels for two people can be identical, yet one can be in the healthy range and the other in the unhealthy range. That’s because of the way HDLs and LDLs interact. High overall cholesterol with high relative LDLs indicate a problem, but the same cholesterol number with high HDLs can indicate a very healthy person. That’s why a cholesterol test looks for all three.
Your initial cholesterol test looks only for an overall number to get an idea of where you are. Normal levels of cholesterol for a healthy person fall below 200 overall. If your cholesterol level is above this, you need further tests to break down the different types of cholesterol.
A healthy cholesterol level for LDLs should fall below 100 mg/dl, but can be as high as about 130 mg/dl. When your normal levels of cholesterol are higher than this, you are considered at high risk, and your doctor will work with you to change your cholesterol level with diet and exercise prior to initiating cholesterol medications. You should try to keep your normal LDL cholesterol level somewhere in the 90s for the best health.
Part of the key to balancing those LDLs is a healthy level for HDLs. The normal levels of cholesterol of this type should fall at about 40 mg/dl for men, 50 mg/dl for women. Higher is always better for these cholesterol levels. Normal range is fine for those who have easily-controlled cholesterol, but if you have cholesterol that runs high or if you have diabetes, you should get those HDLs as high as you can while minimizing your LDL intake.
The last cholesterol factor you need to investigate is the triglycerides. Normal levels of cholesterol of the triglyceride type should fall below 150 mg/dl. Chances are, your triglyceride level falls above that, maybe even well above that. Join the crowd. Sedentary, overweight people who eat foods that are too high in fat are almost certain to have high triglycerides. Decreasing your triglyceride level is key to balancing the other types of cholesterol, and it can make you much less prone to metabolic disorders like diabetes as well.
To maintain normal levels of cholesterol, talk to your doctor about diet, exercise for at least a half hour on more than half of the week, and stop smoking. Your doctor may also give you a normal cholesterol level chart to help you visualize where you fall, and help you determine your goals in controlling your cholesterol.