Accountants aren’t the only ones who go by the numbers. Increasingly, doctors gauge your health by your numbers as well. Better numbers mean better health and lower risk of heart attacks and strokes.
You can make healthy choices that add up to better numbers every day. To do it, keep LDL cholesterol numbers in mind and choose smaller portions when it comes to high-fat foods like hamburgers, cheese and French fries.
The two faces of cholesterol:
An acceptable total cholesterol reading is 200 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dl) or lower, according to the American Heart Association. Above 200 you should take some steps to lower it. The number includes two kinds of cholesterol:
* The bad: Low density lipoproteins, the LDLs: This is the stuff that clogs arteries. You need some, but too much is bad news. Shoot for an LDL reading of less than 100.
If your total cholesterol level is high, you have two choices: You can pay more attention to eating a low-fat diet and getting some exercise, or you can get your doctor’s advice about cholesterol-lowering drugs.
Eating high amounts of soluble fiber from sources like oat bran and beans can also help lower cholesterol, according to the University of Kentucky College of Medicine. In the colon, fiber may interfere with the body’s production of LDL.
* The good: High density lipoproteins, the HDLs: The minimum good reading here is 35 mg/dl. If you have an HDL as high as 80, despite high total cholesterol levels, you may not have to worry about heart disease.
To increase good cholesterol in your blood, eat more fruits and vegetables. Aerobic exercise can raise levels of the protective HDL and may also help to lower LDL.
If the names HDL and LDL confuse you, remember that, in most areas, high is better than low!