Cholesterol, Oh Cholesterol


We often hear about this
waxy substance in a negative light which begs the question of how important it is. Cholesterol is 100% necessary. It is a building block for cells and makes vitamins and other hormones. It is vital to our health and well being.

But…too much of it can be a problem. When there is too much cholesterol in the body it can build up along the inside walls of our blood vessels, causing them to narrow. Compare this to a corroded pipe with build up. It decreases the amount of room that pipe has for the flow of material and increases the pressure within the pipe.

This is a great reason to get your levels checked and to preventatively discuss the results with your physician. Have you had your levels checked recently? A common test measures Total Cholesterol, Triglycerides, LDL (calculated), HDL, VLDL, and Total Cholesterol to HDL ratio. What exactly do they all mean??


BREAKDOWN     |     NORMS (20 and older)
Total Cholesterol: LDL + HDL     |     125-200 mg/dL
The combination of LDL and HDL.

Triglycerides     |     < 150 mg/dL
A different type of lipid that is stored as fat and used for energy source.

HDL: High Density Lipid     |     > 40 mg/dL (male) and > 50 mg/dL (female)
The “good” cholesterol. Higher values reduce cardiovascular risk.

LDL: Low Density Lipid     |     < 100 mg/dL
LDL cholesterol is often called the “bad” cholesterol because it collects in the walls of your blood vessels.

VLDL: Very Low Density Lipid     |     < 30 mg/dL
VLDL protein is produced by the liver and mainly carries triglycerides, though can be used to break down into LDL. A higher value represents higher cardiovascular disease risk.

Total Cholesterol : HDL     |     < 5   ideal ratio: 3.5
This ratio is a rough marker to heart health. It takes all of your cholesterol and divides it by your HDL. A higher ratio is a higher risk of heart disease

Higher levels of cholesterol can indicate health risks, specifically heart disease and stroke, so knowing your numbers is important. Cholesterol itself is vital to our health and well being so keeping it at healthy levels will benefit you in more ways than one!


Where does cholesterol come from?


Mostly the liver. The liver makes 80% of the cholesterol you need. The remainder comes from the foods we eat.

     •  Meat, poultry, and dairy products are high in saturated and trans fats (translation: they cause your liver to make more cholesterol)

     •  Tropical oils: palm oil, palm kernel oil, and coconut oil contain saturated fats.

Can we manage it better? YES!

Here is how food can help lower cholesterol:


•  Keep total fat intake to less than 25-35% of your total calories each day.

•  Of that, monitor saturated fat intake to less than 7% of your total daily calories and trans fat to less than 1%.

•  Look to limit cholesterol intake to less than 300 mg per day.

•  Foods that may be beneficial in lowering cholesterol include:

       •  foods with plant sterol additives

       •  high fiber foods (i.e. bran, oatmeal, fruits – apples and pears, fish, nuts, olive oil)

Other changes to help lower cholesterol:

•  Weight loss

•  Exercise! Because #strongisneverwrong – 30 mins on most, if not all, days. Want some ideas to sneak exercise into your day?

       •  Take the stairs instead of the elevator

      •  Park a little farther away

      •  Walk to the store

      •  Do jumping jacks during commercials

•  Quit smoking

•  Take medication as directed (always ask questions if you don’t understand something).

Please speak with your physician if you are making any major lifestyle changes.