High cholesterol levels are usually associated with an elevated risk of cardiovascular disease. Eating more foods that lower cholesterol is a great place to start. There are steps you can take to help lower bad cholesterol naturally before it gets to that point or to expedite your recovery if your condition gets worse.
What is Cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a form of fat. The cells in your body actually need cholesterol to function properly, making it an essential fat. There are two different types of cholesterol: HDL and LDL.
HDL stands for high-density lipoprotein, also known as healthy cholesterol (think H for healthy). LDL stands for low-density lipoprotein, and this is the bad cholesterol that you should be concerned about (think L for lethal). There’s good news though: the ratio of HDL to LDL is more important than the numbers themselves (1).
LDL cholesterol is what causes the build up of fat in your arteries, which can cause heart attacks if the arteries get closed off or blocked. They can also lead to strokes, muscle death, and/or heart disease.
HDL cholesterol functions by cleaning up LDL cholesterol throughout the body. The bad cholesterol is then deposited into the liver, where it is broken down and cleared through the body’s waste (2).
How Do I Find Out if I Have High Cholesterol?
Your doctor will take a sample of your blood and run it through a lipid profile test. These tests are usually a standard part of an annual wellness exam (physical) after the age of 40, but you can get tested earlier if you show certain risk factors (3).
While there are target numbers considered healthy for the general population, as long as you have enough HDL cholesterol to keep the LDL cholesterol in check, your risk of heart disease will remain small. When the ratio gets skewed in the wrong direction, you’ll start running into problems.
General cholesterol guidelines:
- Total cholesterol: Less than 200 mg/dL
- HDL: Greater than 40 mg/dL for men; Greater than 60 mg/dL for women
- LDL: Less than 100 mg/dL