Not all cholesterol is bad

Cholesterol is necessary to produce certain hormones and to aid cell formation. 75% of the cholesterol in our blood comes from our liver, and the other 25% comes from the food we ingest. Saturated and trans fat foods can increase blood cholesterol levels.

Total Blood Cholesterol

The three components of total blood cholesterol include low-density lipoproteins (LDL), high density lipoproteins (HDL), and triglycerides. According to the National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP), the desirable level for Total Blood Cholesterol is less than 200 mg/dL.

Low-density lipoproteins (LDL) are known as the “bad” cholesterol because they contribute to the formation of fatty build-up, or plaque, that can clog our arteries. Too much fatty build-up poses a risk for cardiovascular disease. According to the NCEP, the optimal LDL level is less than 100 mg/dL.

High density lipoproteins (HDL) are the “good” cholesterol because they help remove cholesterol from the blood, which in turn helps prevent plaque build-up. So having higher levels of HDL is a good thing. According to the NCEP, HDL levels greater than 40 mg/dL is recommended.

Triglycerides

Most fat exists in food and in the body in the chemical form known as triglycerides. Together with the HDL and LDL lipoproteins, they make up the total blood cholesterol.

See your doctor

The American Heart Association recommends everyone over age 20 should have their cholesterol levels tested regularly. Consult your doctor before getting your cholesterol tested, as an overnight fast may be recommended for the most accurate results.

Family connection

Sometimes your liver and other cells will make too much cholesterol for genetic reasons, no matter what food you eat. If your family has a history of high blood cholesterol, there are dietary and lifestyle changes that can help lower your cholesterol.