Health Advocate Blog

Cholesterol 101

Cholesterol is a waxy, fatty substance that occurs naturally in your body and is needed for proper body function. It is found in several places in the body, such as the cells in your brain, nerves, muscles and skin. The body naturally makes all the cholesterol it needs. Depending on the totals of the specific types of cholesterol in the body, excess cholesterol is either excreted from the body or deposited in the arteries. Your cholesterol is something you should stay on top of through regular checkups with your family doctor and blood tests as recommended. Managing your cholesterol is imperative!

Know your numbers

Starting at age 20, you should have a blood test every 5 years to determine your cholesterol levels. If you have been diagnosed with heart disease or are already at a greater risk, your doctor may recommend more frequent testing.

Understanding HDL, LDL and TC/HDL

Getting your results back from a blood test can be confusing! Here are basic descriptions of the numbers related to cholesterol.

HDL, or High-Density Lipoproteins HDL, or High-Density Lipoproteins, is your “healthy” cholesterol. Your HDL carries your LDL (bad cholesterol) to the liver, where it will be excreted by the body.

  • Aim for your HDL levels to be:
    • 40 mg/dL or higher for men
    • 50 mg/dL or higher for women

An HDL level of 60mg/dL or higher has a protective effect. You want to have a high amount of HDL cholesterol!

LDL, or Low-Density Lipoproteins LDL, or Low-Density Lipoproteins, is a sticky type of cholesterol that clogs your arteries. This is your “bad” cholesterol. Maintaining lower levels of LDL can reduce your risk of heart disease.

  • Strive for your LDL to be less than 130 mg/dl

Triglyceride is the most common type of fat in the body. Many people who have heart disease or diabetes have high triglyceride levels.

  • Keep your triglycerides below 150 mg/dl

Total cholesterol, or TC, is the overall amount of cholesterol in your blood. It consists of your HDL, LDL and triglycerides measurements.

  • Try to keep your total cholesterol below 200 mg/dl

Total Cholesterol/HDL radio, or TC/HDL Ratio, is your total cholesterol divided by your HDL cholesterol. This is used as an indicator for the risk of coronary artery disease. You want to have a low ratio, which means that your total cholesterol is mostly the good HDL cholesterol. A low TC/HDL ratio decreases your chance of developing heart disease.

For Health Advocate members

If you’re a Health Advocate member with access to the wellness coaching component of our Wellness Program, contact a Wellness Coach today to learn more about cholesterol and tips to help you lower it!