Cholesterol is a waxy substance that can be found in all parts of your body. It aids in the production of cell membranes, some hormones and Vitamin D. The cholesterol in your blood comes from two sources: the foods you eat and your liver. However, your liver makes all of the cholesterol your body needs.
Cholesterol and other fats are transported in your blood stream in the form of round particles called lipoproteins. The two most commonly known lipoproteins are:
- Low-density lipoproteins (LDL)
- High-density lipoproteins (HDL)
LDL is commonly called the "bad" cholesterol. It‘s a type of fat in the blood that contains the most cholesterol, so you want your LDL to be low.
HDL is known as the "good" cholesterol. It‘s a type of fat in the blood that helps to remove cholesterol from the blood. Since "good" cholesterol prevents the fatty buildup and formation of plaque, you want your HDL to be high. Your total cholesterol is a combination of LDL, HDL and other lipids (fats).
What is a healthy cholesterol level?
High cholesterol is a significant risk factor in heart disease. Cholesterol is specific to each individual and a full lipid profile is an important part of your medical history.
In general, ideal levels are as follows:
- LDL – less than 100 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dl)
- HDL – greater than 40 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dl) for men, greater than 50 mg/dL for women
- Triglycerides – less than 150 mg/dL
- A total cholesterol level below 200 mg/dL is considered desirable
If you already have coronary artery disease or an increased number of risk factors for heart disease, your physician may determine that your LDL cholesterol level must be lower than 100 and may even need to be lower than 70.
Recent studies have shown that those who are at highest risk for a heart attack should lower their LDL cholesterol level to less than 100. An LDL cholesterol level of 70 or less may be the best for those people at the very highest level of risk. Always consult your physician for a diagnosis.
How to Control Your Cholesterol
It is important to work with your doctor on a plan to control your cholesterol. Some general tips include:
- Eat a diet low in saturated fat, cholesterol and calories
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Stop smoking
- Exercise for at least 30 minutes three times a week
What is blood pressure?
Blood pressure is the force of blood pushing against artery walls. Blood pressure results from two forces: one is created by the heart as it pumps blood into the arteries, and the other is the force of the arteries as they resist the blood flow.
Two numbers are recorded when measuring blood pressure. The top number, or systolic pressure, refers to the pressure inside the artery when the heart contracts and pumps blood through the body. The bottom number, or diastolic pressure, refers to the pressure inside the artery when the heart is at rest and filling with blood.
What is a healthy blood pressure level?
The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute guidelines define normal blood pressure as less than 120/80.
A single elevated blood pressure measurement is not necessarily an indication of a problem. Your physician will want to see multiple blood pressure measurements over several days or weeks before making a diagnosis of hypertension (high blood pressure) and initiating treatment.
How to Control Your Blood Pressure
You can control high blood pressure by:
- Choosing foods that are lower in fat, higher in fiber and lower in sodium
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Limiting serving sizes
- Increasing exercise
- Reducing or omitting alcoholic beverages
Some people must take daily medication to control hypertension. If you have hypertension, you should routinely have your blood pressure checked and be under the care of a physician.