Why should anyone get a cholesterol screening? What is cholesterol?
Knowing your cholesterol levels is an essential part of understanding your own risk for heart disease. The American Heart Association recommends that everyone over age 20 get a cholesterol test. Cholesterol is a form of fat that’s not all bad because a certain amount is essential for life.
What does Cholesterol do?
It helps provide stability to the outer membranes of our bodies’ cells. Bad cholesterol or LDL can have very harmful effects on your body. LDL can deposit in blood vessel walls which over time can clog arteries. Clogged arteries, also called atherosclerosis can also develop into blood clots and cause a heart attack.
What puts you at risk for a heart attack?
When your total cholesterol or bad cholesterol is high or your good cholesterol is too low your risk for heart disease increases. That being said is why it’s so important to have your cholesterol checked.
How is cholesterol checked?
Doctors measure and diagnose high cholesterol with a simple blood test, often called a lipid profile. This test is recommended to for patient to fast for nine to 12 hours to eliminate the contribution of any food you recently ate.
Tests for cholesterol provide results for: Total cholesterol, LDL which is the bad cholesterol, and HDL which is the good cholesterol. Once the results come back you will be provided with the numbers from your lipid panel.
Now, what do the numbers in your lipid panel mean?
If your total cholesterol is at 200 or less this is considered normal, 201 to 240 are borderline, and anything greater is considered high. When measuring for HDL, the higher the number the better. HDL is what protects you against heart disease. With HDL anything less than 40 increases your risk for heart disease. Your LDL should be over 100 for optimal readings. For people at high risk of heart disease, or with known heart disease, LDL less than 100 mg/dL is advised. Your cardiologist might recommend an even lower LDL (less than 70 mg/dL) for patients at very high risk of heart disease.
Why have screenings?
A cholesterol test can help determine your risk of the buildup of plaques in your arteries that can lead to narrowed or blocked arteries throughout your body.