Living with High Cholesterol
Am I at risk of high cholesterol?Hypercholesterolemia is a very common condition. In 2008, the World Health Organization published statistics regarding the prevalence of raised total cholesterol among adults worldwide.1
Many risk factors have been identified for high cholesterol.
- Since the liver provides enough cholesterol to cover the body needs, dietary cholesterol should be limited. Foods high in saturated fat (meat, dairy products…) or in trans fat (fried foods, baked goods…) may contribute to high cholesterol and related conditions, such as heart disease. Choosing foods low in saturated fat, trans fat, sodium (salt), and added sugars (e.g. lean meat, seafood, fat-free or low-fat dairy products, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables), or high in fiber (e.g. oatmeal and beans) and unsaturated fats (e.g. avocado, olive oil…) may improve your lipid profile.2
- A lack of physical activity can result in gain weight, which can lead to high cholesterol.2
- Smoking is detrimental to blood vessels, making them more likely to accumulate fatty deposits.2
I have seen HDL and LDL on my blood results. How should I interpret them?Cholesterol tests require a blood draw, indeed, but a lipid profile features more than just HDL and LDL. Your test results also show your triglyceride level, and the total cholesterol level.
Triglycerides are a type of fat that is an energy resource for the body, and total cholesterol represents the total amount of cholesterol in blood, entailing HDL, LDL, and triglycerides.
In an adult, desirable cholesterol levels are as follows:
|Test||Generally desirable level|
|Total cholesterol||under 200 mg/dL or 5.2 mmol/L|
|LDL (bad) cholesterol||under 100 mg/dL or 2.6 mmol/L|
|HDL (good) cholesterol||under 60 mg/dL or 1.5 mmol/L|
|Triglycerides||under 150 mg/dL or 1.7 mmol/L|
Your results are important, but they should be interpreted by your physician. Depending on your age, gender, family history, your lifestyle, your smoking habits (or lack thereof), and other cardiovascular risk factors, your physician will be able to understand the full picture and determine whether action should be taken or not, if high LDL cholesterol levels should be lowered.4
Why have my cholesterol levels gone up since my last test?Many factors can come into play, when it comes to high cholesterol levels. Among other things, one can mention age (the risk for hypercholesterolemia increases with age), lifestyle choices, including food habits or a lack of exercise, weight gain, or even the use of some medications.5,6
Indeed, some drugs can increase LDL or triglyceride levels. Among those, one can mention glucocorticoids, some diuretics, oral estrogens, and b-blockers.2
How often do I need to get my cholesterol checked?Cholesterol levels should be tested at least every 4 to 6 years starting at age 20, and more often if you have a family history of high cholesterol. Talk to your doctor about what’s right for you.5
Are there any risks to the cholesterol test?
Don’t worry, there is very little risk to having a blood test. You may have slight pain or bruising at the spot where the needle was put in, but most symptoms go away quickly.7