Do you know your cholesterol numbers?

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Tammy Roberts, MS, RD, LD, Nutrition and Health Education Specialist, Bates County, University of Missouri Extension

It is important to be aware of cholesterol numbers because high cholesterol is one of the major controllable risk factors for coronary heart disease, heart attack and stroke. There’s no better time than right now to know your numbers — September is Cholesterol Awareness Month.

When you get the results of your cholesterol blood test you should know your total cholesterol, HDL cholesterol and LDL cholesterol. The desirable total cholesterol level is 200 mg/dL or below.

Low density lipoprotein or LDL is considered a good gauge for risk of heart attack and stroke. It is the LDL, along with other substances, that builds up on artery walls, forming a thick plaque that narrows arteries and makes them less flexible. When a clot forms and blocks an artery, a heart attack or stroke can be the result. It is optimal for LDL to be below 100 mg/dL.

High density lipoprotein or HDL is referred to as the good cholesterol. High levels of HDL can provide some protection against heart attack and stroke. HDL helps keep the LDL from building up on artery walls. For men, the average HDL reading is 40 to 50 mg/dL. In women, it is 50 to 60 mg/dL. Less than 40 for men and 50 for women puts you at a higher risk for heart disease. Above 60 mg/dL provides protection against heart disease.

There are some things that impact cholesterol that you have no control over; however, there are other things you can control. To learn about these risk factors and when to have your cholesterol tested, check out the full version of this article at http://missourifamilies.org/features/nutritionarticles/nut222.htm

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