Cholesterol Tests

A high cholesterol level in the bloodstream is one of the risk factors for heart disease. The other major factors are smoking, being overweight, high blood pressure and lack of exercise. It is recommended that all adults over  age 20 should have their cholesterol level checked every five years.

The test to check your cholesterol level involves taking a small quantity of blood from your arm or finger. The basic test will tell you the total cholesterol level. More advanced tests can show the actual levels of the low density lipoprotein (LDL or "bad" cholesterol) and High density lipoprotein (HDL or "good" cholesterol) present.

The test results are expressed as milligrams of cholesterol per deciliter of blood, or mg/dL. A total cholesterol level of less than 200 mg/dL is desirable and some say that 150 mg/dL is the ideal. A reading of 200–239 mg/dL is regarded as borderline high, and anything over 240 mg/dL is high.

With the separate tests for LDL a figure of less than 100 mg/dL is the ideal. From 100–129 mg/dL is classed as near optimal and 130–159 mg/dL is borderline high. 160–189 mg/dL is high and any figure above this is treated as very high.

On the other hand with HDL a higher level is a plus factor. A reading of 60 mg/dL and above gives some protection against heart disease, whereas less than 40 mg/dL is a major heart disease risk factor.
For someone whose test results are high or very high treatment is required, and the main aim is to lower the LDL level. Studies have shown that lowering LDL can prevent heart attacks and reduce deaths from heart disease in both men and women. It can slow, stop, or even reverse the buildup of plaque. Lowering LDL is especially important for those who already have heart disease or have had a heart attack. It will reduce the risk of
another heart attack and can actually prolong life.

The treatment for high cholesterol involves lifestyle changes and sometimes the use of drugs as well. The lifestyle changes are diet, weight loss and exercise. Each of these will be covered in a further article.