Cholesterol: “Making sense of your numbers”

In recent times, there has been a lot of buzz about cholesterol, but not everyone quite understands what cholesterol means or why it is important to keep cholesterol levels within normal limits. If this is you, then this post is for you.

What is cholesterol? Why should I be cautious of my cholesterol levels? what is the association between cholesterol and my health? Can a young person have high cholesterol levels

Cholesterol and its sources ?

Cholesterol is not entirely an unwanted guest, it is an important fatty compound that is primarily produced in the liver utilised by the body for the formation of hormones. However, it can be overproduced if you eat a diet rich in cholesterol derived from meat, poultry, and full-fat dairy products. Cholesterol becomes a problem when it becomes excessive in the body, this is termed “HYPERLIPIDEMIA”. This can occur in any age group.

Types of Cholesterol

Although cholesterol has been named and shamed over the years; not all types of cholesterol are bad, i.e. there are the good guys and the bad guys.  The major types of cholesterol are;

  1. Low Density Lipoproteins (“LDL”) – This is called the “bad” cholesterol, because an excess amount of it can lead to atherosclerosis (narrowing of the arteries), and thus heart disease.
  2. High Density Lipoproteins (“HDL”) – Also referred to as the Good Cholesterol is more beneficial, because it actually helps your body get rid of excessive amounts of LDL cholesterol.

WHY IS CHOLESTEROL SO IMPORTANT ?

Together with other substances, cholesterol can form a thick, hard deposit that can narrow the arteries and make it difficult for blood to circulate. This condition is known as atherosclerosis. If a clot forms and blocks a narrowed artery, a heart attack or stroke can result. Thus, high cholesterol levels is one of the major controllable risk factors for coronary artery disease heart attack and stroke.

UNDERSTANDING YOUR CHOLESTEROL NUMBERS

Your doctor might ask you to do something called a lipid profile test (also called cholesterol test). This test would give your doctor an idea of what your lipid distribution is (that is, the breakdown of how many good cholesterol, bad cholesterol, triglycerides in your blood). These numbers together with other risk factors would determine the course of treatment (i.e if you will be prescribed medication to lower your cholesterol levels or advised to use lifestyle modification method to adjust your numbers). The LDL levels should be less than 130 mg/dl, while the HDL should be greater than 60mg/dl and Total cholesterol, less than 200 mg/dl.

The chart below shows the guidelines used to stratify lipid profile.

cholesterol_measurements_v2

MANAGING YOUR CHOLESTEROL NUMBERS : TREATMENT OPTIONS FOR HIGH CHOLESTEROL NUMBER

  1. Lifestyle modification: This involves making life changes such as;
  • Losing weight if you are obese or overweight,
  • Cessation of smoking and excessive alcohol consumption
  • Getting your diabetes and hypertension under control if you have it.
  • Dietary modification to include fruits and vegetables while reducing highly fatty foods.
  • Regular exercise (at least 30 mins X 3 times a week)

2. Medical Therapy: This involves the use of a group of drugs called statins to help lower your cholesterol numbers.

In as much as the aim is to ensure cholesterol numbers are within normal limits, it is important to consider other factors before placing a person on medical therapy. In summary like my boss always says “treat the patient and not the numbers”.

 

Action Plan:

So, in a bid to ensure we are making an impact and not just writing articles, we have created the action plan feature to enable us highlight possible actions that readers can take to utilise and implement knowledge acquired from the articles. This articles action plans are;

  1. Check your cholesterol levels: You can go to your general physician or medical laboratory to get this done. Using the chart above, locate your risk level. See your general physician to discuss the results.

Please write us if you have any questions, feedback or contributions: theheartenginelive@gmail.com or julietegbule@heartengine.com.

N.B: THIS ARTICLES ON THIS BLOG SERVE AS AN INFORMATION GUIDE AND SHOULD NOT REPLACE THE ROLE OF YOUR PHYSICIAN OR GP.

Juliet E.

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