Blood testing is mostly included in yearly checkups, which also measures your cholesterol levels. Laboratories do measure your total cholesterol level; however, they also break this into two subcategories: LDL cholesterol and HDL cholesterol.
Why Do Doctors Monitor LDL and HDL?
Doctors monitor the amount of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and high-density lipoprotein (HDL) in order to evaluate a patient’s overall health condition. This allows doctors to verify if a patient is prone to develop heart diseases.
- The amount of LDL is measured because high levels of this lipoprotein can lead to a buildup of plaques in the arteries. This eventually leads to atherosclerosis characterized by the hardening and narrowing of the arteries. If this occurs, the blood flow to the heart becomes insufficient, resulting in a heart attack or stroke.
- The amount of HDL is measured to ensure that a patient has sufficient amounts of this lipoprotein. It is said that HDL is good for the heart. Contrary to LDL’s actions, it can carry cholesterol out of a cell and transport it towards the liver.
Interpretations of Results
Why do doctors monitor LDL and HDL? You can get an answer from the following result interpretations.
|LDL Cholesterol Level||Interpretation|
|Lower than 70 mg/dL||Best for individuals who have diabetes or heart disease|
|Lower than 100 mg/dL||Optimal with Individuals who have a high risk of cardiovascular disease|
|100 to 129 mg/dL||Near-optimal if heart disease is non-existent; high if heart disease is existing|
|130 to 159 mg/dL||Borderline high if heart disease is non-existent; high if heart disease is existing|
|160 to 189 mg/dL||High if heart disease is non-existent, very high if heart disease is existing|
|190 mg/dL and more||Very high|
|HDL Cholesterol Level||Interpretation|
|Lower than 40 mg/dL||Poor|
|40 to 59 mg/dL||Good|
|60 mg/dL and higher||Excellent|
Cholesterol Test – Who Needs to Get Tested?
Starting at 18 years old, adults who have a potential of developing cardiovascular diseases should get regular cholesterol testing every 5 years.
Why do doctors monitor LDL and HDL? Testing may be required more frequently if your results from initial cholesterol test are abnormal or if you have a high risk of developing heart disease due to the following cases:
- You have a family history of a heart attack and high cholesterol.
- You are obese or overweight.
- You have a sedentary lifestyle.
- You suffer from diabetes.
- You eat a diet rich in fats.
- You are a smoker.
- Your age is 45 and above (in men) or 55 and above (in women).
Individuals who have a medical history of stroke or heart attacks should have cholesterol testing on a regular basis to monitor if your treatments are effective.
How to Lower LDL Levels and Raise HDL Levels Naturally
1. Eating Heart-Friendly Foods
Even though you have unhealthy eating habits for the past years, it is never too late to start a healthy diet. You can reduce your cholesterol and boost your heart’s health even by making few dietary changes.
- Opt for healthy fats. You should avoid saturated fats. These are fats that are primarily found in dairy products and red meat. This kind of fat can elevate your total cholesterol levels, including LDL. In general, it is highly recommended that less than 7% of a person’s daily caloric intake should come from saturated fats. For healthier choices, you can opt for lean meat and low-fat dairy products. Monounsaturated fats, present in canola and olive oil are other healthy fats to consider. Say No to trans fats. Cholesterol levels are affected by trans fats in a terrible way. Foods that are rich in trans fats are fried foods and processed foods such as cakes, cookies and biscuits.
- Consume foods high in omega-3 fatty acids. Your LDL cholesterol is not affected by omega-3 fatty acids. However, this nutrient can provide numerous benefits to your heart such as increasing the amounts of HDL, reducing the amounts of triglycerides and lowering the blood pressure. Fatty fishes such as mackerel, herring and salmon are high in omega-3. Other sources of omega-3 are flaxseeds, almonds and walnuts.
- Increase your intake of soluble fiber. Soluble fiber is not only good for your heart’s health but also lowers your LDL levels. The common sources of soluble fiber are oats, beans, lentils, vegetables and fruits.
2. Regular Exercise and Increasing Physical Activities
Individuals who have a sedentary lifestyle may have high cholesterol levels and a high risk of developing heart diseases. Doing regular exercises will enhance your cholesterol levels, especially your HDL levels. It is highly recommended that an individual performs regular exercise for a minimum of 30 minutes. Adding a 10-minute physical activity of any kind to your daily routine several times a day also helps.
You can try:
- Playing your favorite sport
- Brisk walking during your free time
- Riding a bike when going to work
- Taking the stairs instead of using an elevator
3. Losing a Few Pounds
Why do doctors monitor LDL and HDL? You already know the answer. One contributing factor to high cholesterol is being overweight. Your cholesterol level will improve if you lose weight even if it is only 5-10% of your total weight.
To start your weight loss journey, you have to evaluate your daily routine and eating habits. You should also consider the various challenges you may face during this period along with some ways on how to overcome these challenges.
4. Quitting Smoking
Your HDL will greatly improve once you stop smoking. However, that is not all. After 20 minutes of giving up cigarettes, your heart rate and blood pressure will go down. The risk of developing heart diseases will be cut into half after one year of quitting. Finally, after 15 years, your risk of developing heart diseases will be similar to those who have never smoked.
5. Moderate Consumption of Alcohol
Moderate consumption of alcohol was associated with an increase in HDL levels. However, the benefits of moderate alcohol consumption are not that strong, especially for those who don’t drink already. If you drink, do so in moderate amounts. Remember that excessive consumption of alcohol is linked to several cardiovascular diseases such as hypertension, stroke and heart failure.