Watching your cholesterol is perhaps one of the most important factors in protecting yourself against cardiovascular disease. Getting your cholesterol levels checked regularly and following an appropriate diet and medication schedule is a crucial step for a healthy lifestyle.
Typically, it is recommended that all adults have their cholesterol levels checked once every five years at the minimum. Especially if you have risk factors such as a family history of cardiovascular problems, your doctor might recommend that you have your cholesterol levels checked more often. In some situations it might be recommended that you have your cholesterol levels checked once per year.
Not only should you get your cholesterol levels checked regularly, but it is important to understand what cholesterol is and what the levels mean.
What is Cholesterol?
Cholesterol refers to a fat-like substance that resides in all cells in your body. Your body needs cholesterol to help your body digest food, make hormones, and perform other vital body functions. The body typically makes enough cholesterol on its own, but cholesterol can also be added by the foods you eat.
Cholesterol can be too high or too low. High blood cholesterol can put you at risk for heart disease. High cholesterol occurs because they body cannot absorb cholesterol, so it builds up in your system.
Problems with cholesterol can be inherited through genetics or be caused by age and even gender. Those are risk factors that unfortunately cannot be controlled. However, risk factors such as the foods you eat, physical activity, and weight can all potentially be regulated and controlled for healthier cholesterol.
Cholesterol travels through your body on lipoproteins. These lipoproteins are either high-density or low-density. Both types are essential for normal bodily and cardiovascular function, but it is possible to have too little or two much of either. These lipoproteins determine if cholesterol is good or bad.
Types of Cholesterol: The Good and the Bad
Cholesterol comes in two parts, generally referred to as “good” cholesterol and “bad” cholesterol.
Low-Density Lipoprotein (LDL) Cholesterol is referred to as “bad” cholesterol. If your blood contains too much low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, you can be at risk for coronary heart disease. This is because the buildup of cholesterol can cause plaque to build up inside your arteries and restrict blood flow to the heart.
High-Density Lipoprotein (HDL) Cholesterol is good. These lipoproteins protect against heart disease by facilitating the movement of bad cholesterols to the liver to be flushed away and slowing plaque buildup.
Like any body measurement, cholesterol has guidelines that your readings should fall between. When you get your cholesterol checked, your LDL and HDL cholesterol measurements will be shown separately. Your overall cholesterol reading, or total cholesterol, is the two measurements added together.
A desirable total cholesterol reading is less than 200mg/dL. Anything above 240mg/dL is considered high.
The total cholesterol reading is most important, however you should pay attention to your separate LDL and HDL readings as well. Typically, you will want your LDL readings to show as 100mg/dL or below, and your HDL to be 60mg/dL and above.
As a person with chronic kidney disease, it’s important to make sure you are taking care of your heart health as much as you work on your kidney health. When your cholesterol is elevated, it can clog your arteries, and that will affect even the small blood vessels in your kidneys. Learning about what cholesterol is and how it can be improved is the first step toward controlling your levels.
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