September is National Cholesterol Education Month.
September is National Cholesterol Education Month. Because coronary heart disease (CHD) is still the culprit of 50 percent of all deaths in America, the issue of cholesterol continues to loom large. Why? It’s simple — the higher ones cholesterol, the larger the chance that one will develop heart artery blockages or CHD. While the percentage of Americans with high cholesterol and those with CHD is lower than in decades past, there remains an extremely high percentage of people with one or both of these conditions.
Blacks still have the dubious distinction of making up a higher percentage of Americans that have serious events and death due to CHD. But this doesn’t have to remain the case. In 2007, approximately one in every six adults —16.3 percent of the U.S. adult population — had high total cholesterol. However, another statistic showed that about 21.5 percent of people said that their cholesterol had never been checked. It is important to realize that part of the reason that high cholesterol and CHD has become less prevalent is because of early detection of high cholesterol levels and the strategies adopted to reduce them. The key, then, is to know what your cholesterol profile is (ie. demand the simple blood test) and learn how to reduce your risks for heart disease.
Doctors and cardiovascular researchers now understand that it is the components of the cholesterol panel—not just the total cholesterol—that makes the difference. Each component of your so-called cholesterol profile, if abnormal, has independent implications for the development of heart disease and/or stroke.
Here are the components of cholesterol profile (also called lipid profile) and the important values:
1. HDL (The Good cholesterol–I call it ‘Happy’, so that you can remember ‘H’ DL cholesterol is the good stuff)
Normal HDL for Men > 40; Women 40-50
2. LDL (The Bad cholesterol–I call this ‘Lousy’, so you can remember ‘L’ DL cholesterol is the bad stuff)
Normal LDL ranges from 100-130 in most people. Lower has proven to be better for people with high risk for developing heart disease, including diabetes, high blood pressure and family history.
3. Triglycerides (Fat particles)
Normal triglycerides < 150
This month have a serious and detailed discussion with your doctor about your cholesterol and the rest of your risk factor for heart disease. Insist that your cholesterol profile has been checked (simple blood test), irrespective of age at least once, and that you understand the numbers and what they mean for you.
Here’s to Mastering Your Health.
Dave Montgomery, MD, PhD is Senior Fellow in Cardiology at Northwestern University and a sought after Speaker and Health Coach.