Managing your cholesterol levels is essential to protect your heart from cardiovascular disease. Many people think that all “cholesterol” is bad; however, there is a healthy type of cholesterol that actually helps clear arteries. Understanding how cholesterol impacts your heart may help protect you form cardiovascular disease.

Cholesterol Basics

Cholesterol is made by the liver and helps in the building of hormones, cell walls, and digestive fluid. It is a fatty, waxy substance that can also be found in some foods including animal products. Although the body needs cholesterol to function, it only needs minimal amounts. When too much cholesterol builds up in the system, it can cause heart disease.

Types of Cholesterol

There are two types of cholesterol in your blood—it is important to understand the “good” cholesterol from the “bad” if you want to prevent cardiovascular disease.

HDL stands for high-density lipoprotein cholesterol. You actually want to have high levels of HDL in your bloodstream as it helps protect you from cardiovascular disease. HDL is often known as the “good” cholesterol because it helps to move cholesterol away from other organs to the liver where it can be processed.

LDL cholesterol is low-density lipoprotein.  LDL cholesterol is linked to cardiovascular disease; therefore, it is referred to as “bad” cholesterol. Individuals should try to lower their LDL levels.

High Cholesterol

Having high cholesterol increases your risk of cardiovascular disease and heart attack. Cholesterol can begin to build up against the artery walls. The arteries, which carry blood to and away from the heart, can begin to narrow, causing the heart to work harder.

Having high cholesterol has no symptoms on its own. But as the artery walls narrow, levels of oxygen that reach the heart can decrease. A lack of oxygen in the heart can cause sharp chest pains. A heart attack occurs when blood is cut off from reaching the heart. Individuals over the age of 20 should have their cholesterol levels checked at least every 5 years as a way to prevent cardiovascular disease.  Learn if you are at high risk for cardiovascular disease.

If you have been diagnosed with high cholesterol, it is important to lower your LDL levels, no matter what your age is.

Cholesterol Levels

In order to test your cholesterol levels, your doctor will request a test called a “lipoprotein.” The test requires you fast for 9-12 hours prior to the blood test. The test will measure your HDL and LDL levels—these numbers will help you determine your risk for cardiovascular disease.

HDL levels should be above 60 mg/dL to help lower your risk of cardiovascular disease. LDL levels should be 129 mg/dL or lower. If your doctor finds that your cholesterol is high, you may be required to take medications or make lifestyle changes to protect yourself form cardiovascular disease.

Jean Brown Research is conducting a clinical research study for an investigational medication to see if it can help reduce LDL levels and increase HDL levels. Qualified participants must be over 18 and at high risk for cardiovascular events. Participants may receive study medication, evaluation by a qualified physician at no cost, and compensation of up to $850 for time and travel. Learn more about this cardiovascular study.