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There are different types of cholesterol…and high levels of some types can be bad
To check your cholesterol levels, your doctor will perform a simple blood test. If your doctor also performs a "lipoprotein profile" on the blood that is drawn, it will show your cholesterol measurements—or cholesterol numbers—for the different types of cholesterols and lipids in the body.
Your doctor will determine from your test numbers if you need to manage your cholesterol and the best way to accomplish that.
What is LDL, or bad, cholesterol?
Along with a number of other types of cholesterol, a lipoprotein profile will show your levels of LDL (or low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol. Cholesterol itself is necessary for the body to build cells and create hormones. However, if there is too much cholesterol—specifically high levels of LDL cholesterol—the LDL cholesterol can build up in the walls of your arteries and prevent blood from circulating. Elevated levels of LDL cholesterol can increase your risk of heart disease. If enough LDL cholesterol builds up and stops the flow of blood to the heart, it can cause a heart attack, or a stroke can result if the flow of blood to the brain is stopped. LDL cholesterol is considered "bad" cholesterol because of these potentially fatal consequences.
What should my LDL (bad) cholesterol number be?
Since the body needs cholesterol to perform certain essential functions, you need some cholesterol. However, since too much LDL (bad) cholesterol can build up and prevent your blood from flowing properly through your arteries, your doctor will want you to keep your LDL (bad) cholesterol at a certain level. The table below shows it’s preferable that LDL (bad) cholesterol levels be at 100 mg/dL or lower.
|LDL (Bad) Cholesterol Level||LDL (Bad) Cholesterol Category|
|Less than 100 mg/dL||Optimal or ideal|
|100-129 mg/dL||Near optimal/above optimal|
|130-159 mg/dL||Borderline high|
|190 mg/dL and above||Very high|
What are triglycerides and how are they different from LDL (bad) cholesterol?
While cholesterol is important for many processes of the body, triglycerides are essential for calorie storage and as an energy source. However, high levels of triglycerides can lead to further production of "bad" cholesterol particles, potentially increasing the risk of heart disease and stroke.
Increased levels of triglycerides are often related to improper diet and lack of exercise, yet, on the other hand, elevated levels may be a sign of other conditions, such as obesity or metabolic syndrome—which is used to describe a group of conditions that include high blood pressure, high triglycerides, abnormal cholesterol levels, and too much fat around the midsection of the body. High triglycerides may also be indicative of type 2 diabetes that is not well controlled, low levels of thyroid hormones, liver disease, kidney disease, or rare genetic disorders that affect how the body converts fats into energy. Certain medications like birth control pills, beta blockers, diuretics, steroids, and beta blockers are also associated with elevated triglyceride levels.
If your triglyceride levels are borderline high (150 to 199 mg/dL), high (200 to 499 mg/dL), or very high (500 mg/dL or more), you’ll want to talk to your doctor about how to lower your number.