ok – so you want to understand what your cholesterol numbers mean. Makes sense! They’re important! Especially if you worry about your health and don’t exactly know what cholesterol means and why it matters.
Everyone over the age of 20 should get their cholesterol measured at least once every five years. All it takes is a blood test called a “lipid profile” from your doctor. Along with blood pressure, it’s one of the most important things to check to determine heart health.
If you’re a man over 35 or a woman over 45, you should get your cholesterol levels checked more often.
So what goes into a lipid profile? I’m glad you asked!
Your lipid profile will show you:
1. Your total cholesterol
2. Your triglyceride levels (these are fats in your bloodstream that come from the foods you eat. Any extra calories, sugar, and alcohol get turned into triglycerides and carried through the body to fat cells.
3. Your hdl cholesterol levels (high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, this is the good kind of cholesterol)
4. Your ldl cholesterol levels (low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, this is the bad kind of cholesterol)
When your doctor gets the results of your lipid profile back, it’ll be in the form of numbers. These numbers tell you everything you need to know about your cholesterol levels – but not everything you need to know about your overall health (1).
That’s because cholesterol levels are just one part of the larger picture of how healthy your heart is. Based on your cholesterol levels and other factors, you and your doctor can come up with a strategy for keeping your heart healthy (2).
But enough about that – you want to know what those numbers mean! Onwards!
What Do Your ldl Numbers Mean?
The reason why ldl cholesterol is considered “bad” cholesterol is because it can build up on the walls of your arteries, which increases your risk of heart disease (3). A lower ldl number is better.
An ldl level of 190 or more is regarded as a very high level. At that level, doctors prescribe a statin to bring that number down as well as eating better.
As for levels lower than 190, it’s up to your doctor to take into account other factors in your life for assessing your risk of heart disease.
What Do Your hdl Numbers Mean?
When you’re looking at your hdl numbers – the opposite of the rule about ldl numbers is true… you want a higher number.
hdl cholesterol is the “good” cholesterol because it works to remove ldl cholesterol from your blood and prevent it from gunking up your arteries. Again, the higher the number for hdl , the better.
What Do Your Triglyceride Numbers Mean?
When we talk about fat in the body, we’re mostly talking about triglycerides. Most of the fat in your body is in the form of triglycerides, and high levels of them mean high risk of heart disease.
Here’s the deal – if you’ve got triglyceride levels of less than 150, that’s great, totally normal. If your levels are from 150-199, that’s high, but not extremely high. If your levels are 200-499, they’re high, and you should take action with your doctor. Any level above 500 is extremely high and requires immediate action.
That’s it! Now you can understand the results of your cholesterol test just as well as your doctor (actually, probably not. I hope not, anyway.)