Know your Numbers Know your Numbers
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Knowing your cholesterol numbers can help you improve your health. Learn more about cholesterol and why controlling it is important to your well-being.

Cholesterol is a natural substance your body needs, but too much cholesterol can contribute to health problems such as heart disease. A simple blood test, a lipoprotein profile, can tell you if your cholesterol numbers are high enough to be a health concern. If your combined lipids number is above 240, you are at risk of lipids lodging in blood vessels and leading to narrowing and blockages of veins and arteries. Blocked blood vessels can cause coronary heart disease or stroke.

Measuring Cholesterol. The lipoprotein profile measures three things: low density lipoprotein (LDL), high density lipoprotein (HDL), and triglycerides. LDL is sometimes referred to as bad cholesterol. Your LDL number should be under 100 while the HDL, or good cholesterol, number should be 40 or higher. Triglycerides should be less than 150. Technically, triglycerides are not cholesterol, but they are included in the profile as high levels of triglycerides can also indicate an increased risk of heart disease.

All adults over the age of 20 should have their cholesterol number checked every five years. If you have a family history of high cholesterol, heart disease, or high blood pressure, you should be screened more often. You should also be screened more often regardless of age if you have an existing medical condition that puts you at increased risk for heart disease, such as being diabetic or overweight.

What is Cholesterol? Cholesterol is a waxy fat-like substance that is a natural component of cell membranes. Cholesterol is necessary for normal body functions and comes from two sources. Most cholesterol found in your body is manufactured by your liver. The remainder comes from foods you eat that are high in saturated fats such as meat and dairy products. The lipoproteins, LDL and HDL, transport cholesterol throughout your body.

To learn more about cholesterol and the importance of screening, see:

Cholesterol Cholesterol and Related Lipids Heart Disease Risk Factors Stroke Prevention