Understanding your cholesterol levels can be confusing. There's no need to feel confused any longer. Learn more about the different types of cholesterol and how they affect your health. Take this quiz and discover the true meaning of high cholesterol.
The different cholesterol levels include: low-density lipoproteins (bad cholesterol), high-density lipoproteins (good cholesterol), very low-density lipoproteins, and chylomicrons.
Cholesterol is measured in milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL). Mg/dL measures the weight of cholesterol per deciliter of blood.
The typical cholesterol test measures the total amount of cholesterol in your blood. It is also fairly common for cholesterol tests to measure LDL and HDL levels.
Someone with high cholesterol has a portion of their blood that looks cloudy and creamy. Alternatively, someone with healthy cholesterol levels has a portion of their blood that looks clear like serum.
LDL cholesterol carries cholesterol to cells and is stored in cell membranes. It can then be used to make vitamin D or steroid hormones.
LDL cholesterol, if not absorbed into cells, remains in the bloodstream. This results in plaque build-up in the arteries and ultimately narrowing or blockage of the arteries.
When there is more LDL cholesterol than what the cell needs, the cell begins to destroy LDL receptors. This leaves the excess LDL cholesterol “stuck” in the bloodstream.
Above all other risk factors, such as obesity and genetic factors, high LDL levels best predict the development of coronary heart disease.
Hypercholesterolemia is inherited high cholesterol levels. Hypercholesterolemia can produce early onset coronary heart disease, regardless of other factors such as diet and weight.
The Framingham Heart Study in 1968 found that people with low HDL levels were eight times more likely to develop coronary heart disease compared to people with HDL levels within the normal range.
Even improving your HDL cholesterol by small amounts can significantly reduce your risk of coronary heart disease. Improve your HDL levels by: drinking alcohol in moderation, exercising regularly, quitting smoking, loosing weight, and keeping a Mediterranean-style diet low in saturated fat and carbohydrates.
The results are not definitive, but high HDL levels may cause inflammation, potentially leading to artery blockage.
There are five different apolipoproteins: A, B, C, D and E. LDL contains apolipoprotein B (apo B) and HDL contains apolipoprotein A (apo A1).
Apo B levels compared to apo A1 levels may be the best predictor of heart disease. Someone with normal LDL levels could still have elevated apo B levels.
When you have normal LDL levels but elevated triglycerides, you should be tested for non-HDL cholesterol. Non-HDL cholesterol is the total of VLDL and LDL, which both have apo B particles.
Recent research suggests that individuals with a certain form of apo E, which is a protein that metabolizes LDL cholesterol, may be at greater risk for developing coronary heart disease.
Research suggests that lipoprotein (a) is associated with thrombosis (blood clotting) and plaque formation in the arteries. If you do not have a family history of coronary heart disease, however, this test may not be made available to you.
High triglyceride levels actually do not predict heart disease. Instead, high triglyceride levels predict metabolic syndrome, which involves abdominal obesity, low HDL levels, high blood pressure and insulin resistance.
Ideally, as part of a general checkup, you doctor should begin testing your cholesterol levels at age 20. If your cholesterol levels are within normal range, you should subsequently get your cholesterol levels tested every five years.
Ideally, LDL should be below 100 and HDL should be around 50 for men and 60 for women. Individuals with healthy cholesterol have a 3 to 1 ratio of LDLs to HDLs.