Carolinas HealthCare System
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Cholesterol – Knowing Your Numbers

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Cholesterol is a waxy substance that is produced by your body and also comes from the food you eat. Your body, and especially your liver, makes all the cholesterol you need and circulates it through the blood. But cholesterol is also found in foods from animal sources, such as meat, poultry and full-fat dairy products. Your liver produces more cholesterol when you eat a diet high in saturated and trans fats.

“Knowing your cholesterol levels is important,” says Perry Nelson, MD, with Rutherford Internal Medicine Associates, part of Carolinas HealthCare System. “High cholesterol is one of the major risk factors leading to heart disease, heart attack and stroke.”

The types of cholesterol you hear about most include:

  • Total cholesterol – all the cholesterols combined
  • High density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol – often called "good" cholesterol
  • Low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol – often called "bad" cholesterol

According to Dr. Nelson, for many people, abnormal cholesterol levels are partly due to an unhealthy lifestyle – most commonly, eating a diet that is high in fat.

Other lifestyle factors are:

  • Being overweight
  • Heavy alcohol use
  • Lack of exercise and leading an inactive lifestyle

Your doctor can check your cholesterol with a simple blood test during your annual preventive exam. “One of the things I like to do with patients is to set a cholesterol goal,” says Dr. Nelson. Discuss your target goal numbers with your physician.

Generally, they may look like this:

  • LDL: 70 to 130 mg/dL (lower numbers are better)
  • HDL: more than 40 to 60 mg/dL (high numbers are better)
  • Total cholesterol: less than 200 mg/dL (lower numbers are better)
  • Triglycerides: 10 to 150 mg/dL (lower numbers are better)

Partner With a Doctor for Good Health

The primary care doctors at Carolinas HealthCare System can help you get (and stay) on the path to wellness.

Call 844-881-2180 or complete an online request form to find a doctor near you.