Understanding Cholesterol

Many people are confused about cholesterol and triglyceride levels.  Women need to be careful and monitor these levels because heart disease is rising in this population.  Some say they do not understand how to read the lipid panel when getting test results.

Lipid Panel

Doctors will usually order a panel called the “Lipid Profile.” This panel includes Total Cholesterol, HDL, LDL cholesterol, and triglyceride levels.  Although I understood “Total Cholesterol,” I was a little confused about the LDL and HDL levels, so here is a panel breakdown.  I hope this brings some clarity to you as well.

What is Cholesterol?  

Cholesterol is a type of fat in the blood.  Our bodies need some fat, but if there is too much in the blood, it can lead to sickness and disease.  Too much cholesterol can clog and narrow the blood vessels and lead to health problems such as heart disease, stroke and blood vessel disease.

Total Cholesterol  

This cholesterol measures your body’s total amount, including LDL and HDL.  This number should be less than 200. If is is over 200 you have high cholesterol.


This cholesterol level should be low.  Many refer to it as bad cholesterol.  If this cholesterol is high, it leads to heart disease, causing clogged arteries.  It is best if this number is less than 100.


HDL helps remove the bad cholesterol from the body, and many call this good cholesterol.  Normal levels should be 60 or higher.  HDL levels of less than 40 put you at a dangerous risk for heart disease.


Triglycerides are fats. It increases the risk of heart disease.  These types of fats come from fatty foods.  Triglyceride levels should be less than 150.

Why You Should Be Concerned

Over and over again, in medical literature, diet and health books, the news, and many other media outlets, certain key aspects seem to be prevalent in many diseases, and the same is true for heart disease.  If we address the following things,  we can significantly reduce our chances of getting many health diseases. Understanding cholesterol is important for your heart and your health. Ninty-Four million adults over age 20 have cholesterol over 200, according to the CDC.


Lack of exercise increases the reis of heart disease.  Even though some realize this, they go day in and day out without exercising.  Physical activity must become a way of life.  Look at it this way: you must eat to live and be physically active to live.   Exercise is free medicine for the body.   

Increasing Good Cholesterol

Want to increase your HDL (good) cholesterol?  Then start exercising.  When I did my yearly physical at work, my triglycerides and cholesterol levels were pretty good, but my HDL was too low.   In my exit interview, the evaluator instructed me to increase this level by exercising regularly and that if I didn’t change anything, my results would remain the same.


You can lower your cholesterol by eating plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables rich in fiber.  There is also fiber in whole grains, nuts, and beans.  If you are trying to lower your cholesterol, the National Academy of Sciences states that women take at least 25 grams of total fiber per day.  Avoid refined sugar,  white bread, and pasta; try whole grains and natural sugars instead.


Saturated fats from animal products significantly contribute to high cholesterol and should be used sparingly or eliminated.  Labels that contain the words “partially hydrogenated” and choose an alternative product.  On the other hand, some foods considered healthy fats are avocados, ground flaxseed, olives, walnuts, almonds, and chia seeds.

Home Food Substitute Suggestions

1.  Substitute for oil – Applesauce
2.  Substitute for eggs – Egg Replacer, ground flaxseed, or the slimy film of boiled flaxseed.
3.  Substitute for sugar – Dried fruit such as dates, frozen bananas, Agave Nectar, honey, Turbinado sugar, raw cane sugar, and Stevia.

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