What your cholesterol levels are telling you

Blood collection tube and small blue butterfly catheter with lipid panel results.

Nowadays with increasing awareness we already know quite a bit about cholesterol. These are breakdown products of fat during digestion, and are essential for maintaining proper cell/tissue functioning. However, with a more sedentary and stressful lifestyle, it is common to have excess levels of cholesterol.


Lipid profile is the most basic test which gives a comprehensive view of your cholesterol levels. But what do the various parameters mean?


Low density and very low density lipoproteins (LDLs/VLDLs): These are actually the most harmful forms of cholesterol in the body, and are mostly responsible for artery blockage and other coronary problems.


Optimal levels should be less than 100 mg/dl, especially for those with diabetes or heart problems. Anything above 130 mg/dl is considered high and you need to consult a doctor.



High Density Cholesterol (HDL): This is the ‘good cholesterol’ which scavenges LDL/VLDL and reduces heart risks. Optimum levels are above 40 mg/dl; but ideally it should be around 60 mg/dl for reducing heart risks significantly.


Lastly we have triglycerides, which along with LDLs lead to coronary complaints. Normal levels are below 150 mg/dl; 150-190 mg/dl is borderline high and anything above 200 mg/dl is considered alarming.


Apart from these figures, ratios like cholesterol/HDL and LDL/HDL give you the ratio between bad and good cholesterol. The higher this number, the higher the risk for coronary diseases.


As a result, to improve health or lower risks of heart diseases it is essential to increase HDL and lower LDL, VLDL and triglycerides. If its high, medications may be required. But in most borderline cases, good exercise and proper diet are quite good options to control cholesterol.


Avoiding oily food, packed food items, trans fats and red meat. Fish and other sea foods contain omega 3 fatty acids, which lowers LDL. Vegetable proteins are always a better choice for those trying to reduce cholesterol.


Simultaneously, you should also try to increase HDL levels. Nuts and high fibre foods are the best way to do it. Green vegetables and fruits (preferably with skin) help. Although with the amount of chemicals used to ripen fruits, it is advisable you wash the fruits thoroughly.


Lastly, monitoring cholesterol is as important as controlling it. So be sure to get lipid profiles done every 6 months to know what you need to do.



Author: Dr. Abhishek Chaudhuri

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