Cholesterol often gets a bad rap. We’re constantly warned to stay away from foods high in cholesterol and encouraged to keep cholesterol levels down. But, in reality, some cholesterol is necessary for our bodies to function.
Cholesterol helps build new cells, protects nerves and produces hormones. The trouble comes when we ingest too much cholesterol. Our livers generally make enough of the cholesterol that our bodies need. When we consume too much, it can deposit in unhealthy places, including arteries.
When cholesterol builds up in your arteries over time, it can restrict blood and oxygen flow to and from your heart. In the most serious case, reduced blood flow and oxygen to the heart can result in chest pain, and when blood flow gets completely cut off, a heart attack might result.
Here are some ways monitoring your cholesterol can support your heart health and whole health. When you adopt healthier lifestyle choices, you can maintain ideal cholesterol levels and prevent heart disease in the future.
Monitoring Your Heart Disease Risk
A regular blood test that measures cholesterol levels in the body can help your doctor monitor your risk of heart disease. Blood tests measure two different types of cholesterol:
- High-density lipoprotein (HDL): This “good” cholesterol can help carry LDL out of the arteries and may even lower your risk of heart disease.
- Low-density lipoprotein (LDL): Known as the “bad” cholesterol, this type of cholesterol can build up in your arteries and increase your risk of heart attack.
Understanding Your Cholesterol Levels
Your doctor will discuss the results of your blood test, but LDL levels are categorized as:
- Less than 100 mg/dL – Optimal
- 100-129 mg/dL – Near optimal/above optimal
- 130-159 mg/dL – Borderline high
- 160-189 mg/dL – High
- 190 mg/dL – Very high
Together, you and your doctor will work to create a plan that helps decrease bad cholesterol and increase good cholesterol to improve heart health. That may include:
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Medication to help lower cholesterol
- Plant-based diet that emphasizes fruits, vegetables and lean protein sources, and reduces saturated and trans fat
- Regular physical activity
A Whole-Health Approach to Strengthening Your Heart
Regular checkups with your primary care provider play an important role in monitoring and managing your whole health. By routinely tracking your cholesterol and other health indicators over time, you can intervene quickly and get back to optimal health.
If you’re in need of lab services for an upcoming test, find your nearest lab location here.