Because there’s often a strong correlation between elevated levels of blood cholesterol and heart disease, most health-care providers consider blood cholesterol testing a valuable diagnostic tool. Cholesterol is associated with a group of fatty substances called lipids that move through the bloodstream attached to proteins. When the lipid and the protein join, they become a molecule called a lipoprotein. Cholesterol is associated with different lipoproteins, all of which have different effects on cardiovascular health.
A high level of bad cholesterol and other blood lipids is most often associated with atherosclerosis, the buildup of fatty deposits on arterial walls that often leads to heart attacks.
Coronary artery disease is also associated with a high blood cholesterol reading. Measuring cholesterol actually involves three blood fats: Low-density lipoprotein, or LDL cholesterol (also called “bad” cholesterol); high-density lipoprotein, or HDL cholesterol (also called “good” cholesterol); and triglycerides. In evaluating a person’s cholesterol level, the health-care provider will look at total cholesterol, triglycerides and the ratio of total cholesterol to HDL cholesterol. Your provider will also look at your risk factors for heart disease, stroke and vascular disease.
How cholesterol levels are measured
Cholesterol levels are measured in milligrams (mg) of cholesterol per deciliter (dL) of blood. High blood cholesterol is diagnosed by checking levels of cholesterol in your blood. You will be instructed not to eat or drink anything for nine to 12 hours prior to the test. The American Heart Association and The National Heart, Lung & Blood Institute identifies normal to high risk values below:
• Less than 200 mg/dl is desirable
• 200-239 mg/dL is borderline high
• 240 mg/dL and above is high
• Less than 100 mg/dL is optimal
• 100-129 mg/dL is above optimal
• 130-159 mg/dL is borderline high
• 160 mg/dL and a bove is high
• Less than 40 mg/dL is high risk for men
• Less than 50 mg/dL is high risk for women
• 60 mg/dL and above is considered protective against heart disease
• Less than 150 mg/dL is normal
• 150 to 199 mg/dL is borderline high
• 200-499 mg/dL is high
• 500 mg/dL and above is very high
If you’re concerned about your risk for heart disease, ask your health-care provider to check your cholesterol level. If the levels are too high, ask your health-care provider to recommend a diet and exercise program. For more information call 531-6880/3255.