What You Should Know
There’s no doubt, cholesterol can be confusing.
LDL vs. HDL.
Bad cholesterol vs. good.
What should my levels be?
If you have questions or concerns about cholesterol,
this booklet can help by providing you with
important information you need to know.
One thing is certain. Cholesterol can have
a dramatic impact on your health. Please take
a few moments to read through this booklet
to learn about it and what you should be
doing. If you still have questions or need
clarification, please speak with your doctor.
The more you learn about cholesterol,
the better chance you’ll have of control ing it—
and living a healthful life.
What is Cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a soft, waxy substance that comes from the food
you eat and is also produced by your liver. It travels in your blood
along with proteins in bal s cal ed “lipoproteins,” and has important
functions in your body. For example, cholesterol is used to make
LDL choLesteroL: the “baD” choLesteroL
LDL cholesterol gets its name because it is the cholesterol contained
within low-density lipoprotein. A high LDL cholesterol level is
strongly related to heart disease.
Arteries carry blood with LDL cholesterol, oxygen, and nutrients
to organs and tissues. When your LDL cholesterol is too high,
cholesterol is deposited inside your arteries. This can lead to a
condition called atherosclerosis, or “hardening of the arteries.”
As the walls of the arteries harden and thicken, the arteries narrow
and blood flow is reduced. This causes tissues and organs to receive
less blood and oxygen than they need. When this happens, symptoms
develop. The symptoms depend on the tissues or organs affected.
A few examples are listed in the chart below.
some organs and tissues affected by atherosclerosis
(hardening of the arteries)
Chest pain from reduced
Coronary artery disease,
oxygen to the heart muscle
angina, heart attack
Abnormal neurologic function
due to reduced oxygen to
ischemic attacks (TIAs)
Pain in the large muscles
Peripheral artery disease
in the calf during exercise
or at rest
hDL choLesteroL: the “gooD” choLesteroL
HDL cholesterol is carried within high-density lipoprotein. Medical
experts think high density lipoprotein carries cholesterol away from
the arteries and back to the liver, where it’s passed from the body. A
high level of HDL cholesterol helps protect against heart attack.
Cholesterol levels are measured in milligrams (mg) of cholesterol
per deciliter (dL) of blood. Recommended levels vary depending on
various factors, including your medical and family history.
However, here are some general guidelines:
Less than l00 mg/dL
note: For very high-risk patients, the
optimal LDL level is less than 70 mg/dL
near optimal/above optimal
190 mg/dL or higher
Less than 40 mg/dL
60 mg/dL or higher
KNOW YOUR CHOLESTEROL NUMBERS
It’s important for you to know what your cholesterol levels should
be and to keep an eye on your levels over time. A chart like the one
below can help you do that. To use the chart, follow these steps:
1. Ask your healthcare provider for the target cholesterol levels
he or she recommends for you, and write them in the spaces
2. Whenever you have a blood test measuring your cholesterol,
ask for the results and record them in the chart below.
3. Be sure to include the date your blood was tested in the
top row of the chart.
My target LDL cholesterol level is:_______________________________
My target HDL cholesterol level is: ______________________________
Blood test date:
Blood test date:
Blood test date:
Blood test date:
My LDL cholesterol
My HDL cholesterol
how to reach Your target LeveLs
First and foremost, if your healthcare provider has prescribed
medication, be sure to take the medication as directed. Secondly,
follow the lifestyle recommendations below. A healthful lifestyle can
help reduce your cholesterol levels—and may help your medications
work better. Key Note: Always consult with your healthcare provider
before changing your diet or level of physical activity.
? Eat a balanced, varied diet low in saturated and trans fats.
A diet low in cholesterol can also be helpful.
? Eat foods with fiber, including fruits, vegetables, legumes
(e.g., red beans, black beans), and oat bran.
? Be physically active (as recommended by your physician).
? Eat in moderation and maintain a healthful weight by balancing
the calories you consume with physical activity.
more tIps for heart anD arterY heaLth
? If you drink alcohol, drink in moderation.
? If you smoke, stop. If you don’t smoke, don’t start.
If you ever have any questions about your cholesterol, be sure to
speak with your doctor. You can also obtain additional information
about cholesterol at BCBSRI.com.
Learn more about cholesterol and heart
disease, take action, and stay on track toward
your health goals by visiting the Web sites
below. Of course, if you ever have any
questions, be sure to speak with your
Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI)
American Heart Association
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
444 Westminster Street • Providence, RI 02903-3279
Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island is an independent licensee
of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association.
4/06 MM-1962 • 7409FL