Cholesterol is a fat-like substance your body needs for making hormones and vitamins and building cells. Cholesterol travels through the bloodstream as non-soluble lipid molecules called low-density lipoprotein or LDL cholesterol and high-density lipoproteins or HDL cholesterol. LDL cholesterol are "bad" since they can block the arteries. HDL cholesterol are "good" and help carry excess cholesterol away from the bloodstream. Triglycerides are lipids that your body stores in fat cells as unused calories. The levels of cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood are important factors in determining your risk of heart disease.
Request a lipid profile – a test to measure your blood cholesterol -- from your doctor. Your test results should show values for total cholesterol and the three types of cholesterol: HDL cholesterol, LDL cholesterol and triglycerides. The unit of measurement is milligrams of cholesterol per deciliter of blood, or mg/dL.
Divide the triglyceride level by 5 and add that value to the LDL. This is your non-HDL cholesterol. You may also subtract the value for HDL cholesterol from the total cholesterol to give you non-HDL cholesterol. A high value for non-HDL cholesterol may indicate a higher risk for heart disease.
Check your specific non-HDL cholesterols against your ideal range, which depends on your underlying risk of heart disease. In general, an LDL cholesterol level below 100 mg/dL is healthy and carries a low risk of heart disease. The risk increases considerably once the LDL cholesterol level increases to 160 mg/dL and above. A triglycerides level below 150 mg/dL is desirable, while 200 mg/dL and above is high.
Ask your doctor for ways to lower your non-HDL cholesterols to healthy levels. Some practical tips for achieving healthy cholesterol levels include: cutting fats and cholesterol from your diet, aiming for a healthy weight, exercising regularly and eating more fresh fruits, vegetables and fibers.
- Check your HDL cholesterol level against an ideal range. Aim for HDL cholesterol around 60 mg/dL and above for some protection against heart disease.
- Talk to your doctor before starting any diet or exercise regimen to lower your cholesterol.
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This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.