Cholesterol isn’t all bad.
You’ve probably heard about the difference between good and bad cholesterol.
Good cholesterol can go a long way toward reducing your heart attack risk and removing bad cholesterol from your system. Bad cholesterol can cause plaque to build up in your arteries over time.
Regular cholesterol testing is very important to discover your good to bad cholesterol ratio.
But what if your annual wellness checkup indicates that your ratio is out of balance? How do you get back on track?
We’ll take a look at what cholesterol is, what’s the difference between HDL and LDL cholesterol, and what techniques can help you raise the good cholesterol in time for your next well visit.
What is cholesterol and why is cholesterol testing important?
Cholesterol is a waxy substance found in your cells, and it’s an important part of a healthy body.
It’s needed to make vitamin D, as well as testosterone, estrogen and other hormones. It’s also vital in the creation of bile acids that dissolve fat. Your liver and intestines make 80 percent of the cholesterol needed to remain healthy, according to information from Harvard Medical School.
Regular cholesterol testing at your well visits with one of our internists helps us gain a snapshot of how cholesterol is functioning in your system.
We recommend a fasting cholesterol test every year. During these tests, we’ll examine your LDL, HDL and triglyceride levels.
Do know which one is the good cholesterol and which one is the bad version? We know it can be confusing. We’ve broken it down for you in a way that will make it easy to remember.
Good cholesterol is known as high-density lipoprotein (HDL)
The higher your HDL, the lower your risk for heart disease. An easy way to remember this is that HDL and the word “high” both begin with an H. You want your good cholesterol number to be high.
The bad cholesterol is LDL, which you want to be lower. To help you remember, just recall that LDL begins with an L which means you want that number to be lower.
How Can Your Body Make More Good Cholesterol?
Improving your good cholesterol level is associated with many things, and it’s all these things working in conjunction—not one on itself—that are needed to increase your good cholesterol, according to information from the Mayo Clinic.
These ways include:
A healthy diet
Our dietician, Nicole Matala, will be happy to work with you to create a diet that will provide the help you need. In general, you should avoid trans fat and foods made with shortening such as cakes or cookies.
Getting regular exercise
Even as little as 60 minutes of aerobic exercise a week can make a difference.
If you smoke, stop smoking
Smoking increases your risk for several diseases, including lung cancer and heart attacks. We can discuss ways to help you quit at your well visit.
Smoking lowers HDL levels, and for some reason, this is seen more often in women than in men.
For many adults, diet and exercise aren’t enough to increase HDL and lower LDL. In these cases, certain medications called statins can help. We can discuss this when you have your cholesterol testing.
Moderate alcohol use
Let’s be clear: Don’t start drinking to increase your HDL. Too much alcohol can cause extensive problems, including weight gain.
However, among those who do drink, moderate alcohol consumption–limited to one or two drinks a day—can have a positive effect on HDL levels.
You should be aware that alcohol can interact with over-the-counter and prescription medication. Please speak to us at your wellness checkup if you regularly use alcohol.
What is Metabolic Syndrome?
Metabolic syndrome is not one disease, but rather is a cluster of conditions that, when combined, greatly increase your risk of having too much bad cholesterol.
Metabolic syndrome includes obesity, high blood pressure and elevated blood sugar levels.
If you have these symptoms, speak with us about it at your well visit or when you have your regular cholesterol testing. We can craft a plan to help you battle this syndrome and lead a healthier life.
Little Known Facts About Cholesterol
Of course, when it comes to cholesterol, it’s important that you have the facts you need in order to live a healthier life.
For example, were you aware that most of your total cholesterol—80 percent—is naturally produced by your liver? The other 20 percent comes from meat, cheese, eggs and other food you eat, according to information from Harvard Medical School.
This shows that even if you haven’t won the genetic roll of the dice, transforming your diet can help you lower the levels of your bad cholesterol.
According to the Centers for Disease Control more than 102 million Americans over the age of 20 have total cholesterol levels above the recommended 200 mg/dL. Of those, 35 million have levels that are over 240, which places them at a much higher risk for developing heart disease.
This means that roughly 1 in 3 American adults has high cholesterol.
Did you know that even children and teens can have high cholesterol?
An estimated 20 percent of those between the ages of 12 and 19 have had at least one abnormal lipid panel. A lipid panel measures the amount of cholesterol in your bloodstream.
What are statins? How do statins work?
One of the most common treatments for high cholesterol—in addition to diet and exercise—is the use of a type of medication called statins.
The name brand medication Lipitor is a statin. They work by blocking the substances that are needed for your body to produce cholesterol.
However, not everyone is able to take statins. In some cases, even when they are taken at the maximum dose, they still may not help lower bad cholesterol in some people.
The FDA has approved a new type of drug that can lower bad cholesterol by more than 50 percent. These drugs are known as PCSK9 inhibitors and are given by injection, according to information from Harvard Medical School.
These drugs, known as alirocumab (Praluent) and evolocumab (Repatha), are—at least for now—incredibly expensive, and are cost-prohibitive for many people.
There is the possibility that in the future, they may be more accessible for those who need them most.
A WEALTH OF INFORMATION IS AVAILABLE AT YOUR FINGERTIPS
We know there’s a lot of information—and misinformation—out there. Sometimes the well-meaning advice of your Facebook friend or relative can actually cause more harm than good.
We want you to glean from our extensive library of health care resources from our experienced Raleigh internal medicine physicians.
If you want to know more about cholesterol, we recommend you read the following blogs:
When Was the Last Time You Had Cholesterol Testing?
We suggest that you have your cholesterol levels checked at least once a year—or perhaps more often depending upon your results and your risk factors. We know there is no “one size fits all” approach to medicine.
We want to get to know you and your individual situation to be sure that you receive an effective solution tailored to help you.
For more than 45 years, Raleigh Medical Group has served as the Triangle area’s premier internal medicine provider. Comprised of three distinct practices: Raleigh Medical Group, Cary Medical Group and Raleigh Adult Medicine, we tailor our treatments to provide the finest personalized health care available for each stage of your adult life. Contact us to schedule an appointment.