A Case of the Wrong Number

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that 1 out of every 3 American adults has high cholesterol. The main reason many do not know they have unhealthy cholesterol levels until they have a heart attack or stroke is because high cholesterol usually has no signs or symptoms. That’s why it’s important to get your cholesterol levels checked every four to six years.

We all have cholesterol; it travels through our blood silently. And it turns into plaque silently. Once it enters the artery wall and turns to plaque it can clog arteries and reduces blood flow. That’s what links it to heart disease.

A blood test called a lipid panel reveals how much cholesterol is circulating in your blood. Your HDL (good cholesterol) is the number you want to be ideally above 60. Your LDL (bad cholesterol) should be below 100. Your total number should be below 200. The American Heart Association considers patients at risk if their reading is 200-239 and dangerous if 240 or higher. The CDC recommends that those 20 years and older should have their cholesterol checked.  That’s right, 20.  And in some cases, younger.

Don’t Forget the Kids

Children can have high cholesterol too. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends cholesterol screening for all kids between ages 9 and 11 who are at high risk, including those with:

If you have a history of premature heart disease, talk to your doctor about your children’s risk of high cholesterol.

Although we’ve been trained to aim for a number less than 200, in the last few years doctors are also taking a more personal approach to assessing cholesterol and considering existing risk factors, including age.

Risk Factors

Family history of heart disease

South Asian race

Type 2 diabetes

Early menopause- hitting menopause before 40

Family members with high cholesterol


Little to no exercise

Get Moving

Sweating raises good cholesterol levels – New guidelines from the American Heart Association recommends about 2 ½ hours of moderate activity a week to lower bad cholesterol and raise good cholesterol. That’s a little over 20 minutes a day and the quickest thing you can do to affect your cholesterol in a positive way.

 10 Cholesterol-Lowering Foods


Tea (black or green)



Nuts (unsalted)


Olive Oil


Tomatoes (cooked or processed)


Foods to Avoid

-Cookies, cakes and doughnuts

-Expresso coffee- Researchers in Norway have found that Arabica beans contain the highest concentrations of cholesterol-raising diterpenes, compared to Robusta beans.

-Foods with partially hydrogenated oil

-Reduce the intake of saturated fats like that found in whole milk, butter, full-fat yogurt, cheese, steak, beef roast, ribs, pork chops and ground beef

-Processed meat

-Fried foods

-Coconut oil, butter and palm oil

Too Much of a Good Thing – Not Good

A 2018 study examined the HDL (good cholesterol) levels of 1,380 postmenopausal women and found that higher HDL cholesterol was associated with higher risk of carotid plaque in those women more than 10 years postmenopausal. The results recommend that high HDL levels in middle-aged and older women be looked at as a potential problem, instead of a good thing.

It’ scary to think that nearly half the people reading this article don’t know their cholesterol level.  This writer does NOT and, after doing the research, will be getting a simple lipid test this month.