What is Cholesterol and How Does it Affect My Heart?

in Cholesterol

How many times have you read about cholesterol? Possibly your medical practitioner has talked to you about your cholesterol and your blood levels. What is cholesterol and how does it affect our hearts? What is a "normal" level and what can we do to keep our levels at a good number? These are important questions to ask. You might also want to know exactly what cholesterol does to your heart.
Let's take a look at your heart. The heart sits in the center of your chest and is about the size of your fist. It has three main coronary arteries and their branches which run down the heart muscle and supply it with the blood and oxygen it needs. When cholesterol (commonly called plaque) builds up in the walls of the heart arteries they can become blocked. When a blockage occurs the blood cannot go through the artery and a heart attack occurs. Once you have a heart attack, that part of the heart muscle is damaged because it hasn't had the blood supply it needs. Damaged heart muscle does not function as strong or as well as normal muscle.

Cardiac risk factors include family history (if your mother or father had history of heart disease at an early age you are more likely to), smoking, increased cholesterol, high blood pressure, obesity and diabetes. Cholesterol is one of the ones we can control.
So, let's take a look at cholesterol. It is a fatty, waxy substance that is naturally found in our bodies and ingested via foods high in fat/cholesterol. High cholesterol can affect children as well as adults. Sometimes high cholesterol runs in families.

Your cholesterol is tested by the doctor or lab by having your blood drawn. Usually you will be asked to come in "fasting", not having eaten in the last 12 hours prior to testing. The results are obtained within 1-2 days at most labs. The lab result will be given to you in terms of milligrams per deciliter (mg/dl). These are the different parts of the testing;
1. Your total cholesterol should measure under 200 mg/dl. Any measurement above 240 is said to increase your cardiac risk 2 times. Borderline high is generally between 200-239. But sometimes your total cholesterol may be a little higher than the normal level and still be ok because your other cholesterol numbers are good.
2. Your HDL cholesterol should be between 40-50 for men, and from 50-60 for women. If it is higher it is good because HDL is considered your "good" cholesterol and it is felt that you have some added protection against cardiac risk.
3. Your LDL cholesterol is a more finite indicator of your risk. If it is below 100 it is excellent, 100-129 is good, 130-159 is borderline high, 160-189 is high and 190 and above is very high.
4. Your triglycerides are considered to be an indicator of higher cardiac risk. Many people with diabetes have high triglycerides. Normal levels are below 150, borderline high is 150-199, high is 200-499 and very high is 500 and greater.
This is a basic review of cholesterol, however once you know what your cholesterol levels are you can make some informed choices along with your medical practioner.  

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Kat Smith-Starlove has 1 articles online

Kat is a health coach, life design advisor, author, speaker and RN. With over 20 years in her field she is an expert in teaching wellness and fitness incorporating non-traditional health theories with traditional or Western medicine. She is an advocate for patients and ioffers wellness programs which can be modified for each person and their specific needs. She believes in incorporating the mind, body and spirit in her teaching.
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What is Cholesterol and How Does it Affect My Heart?

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This article was published on 2010/04/02