Controlling Cholesterol For Dummies
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Take a look at recommended guidelines for cholesterol, blood pressure, and body mass index (BMI) and get your numbers checked to see if you’re at risk for health problems. Adopt some healthy habits that will help you keep your cholesterol under control.

Counting cholesterol

The National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP) issued this data about adult guidelines for total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol (the bad stuff), and HDL cholesterol (the good stuff). These cholesterol numbers apply to people ages 20 to 74:

Total Cholesterol (mg/dL) Status
<200 Excellent
200-239 Borderline high
>240 High
LDL Cholesterol (mg/dL) Status
<100 Excellent
100-129 Pretty good
130-159 Borderline high
160-189 High
>190 Very high
HDL Cholesterol (mg/dL) Status
<40 Low
>60 High

Source: National Cholesterol Education Program

Counting Kids’ Cholesterol

Counting cholesterol in kids is different than in adults. The American Heart Association (AHA) suggests only testing children older than age 2 and who have a family history of coronary artery disease — a parent or a grandparent with high cholesterol or a history of heart disease. The AHA-recommended cholesterol levels for children and adolescents between the ages of 2 and 19 are:

Total Cholesterol (mg/dL) LDLs (mg/dL) Status
<170 <110 Acceptable
171-199 111-129 Borderline
200 or higher 130 or higher High

Source: The American Heart Association

Recommended blood pressure levels (systolic/diastolic)

Having high blood pressure, or hypertension, causes your heart to work harder than normal to pump blood. Get a blood pressure test and look at your numbers to see if you’re at risk for health problems related to high blood pressure.

Blood Pressure Category Systolic (1st Number) Diastolic (2nd Number)
Normal less than 120* less than 80*
Prehypertension 120–139 80–89
Stage 1 140–159 90–99
Stage 2 160 or higher 100 or higher

*All figures measured in mm/Hg (millimeters/mercury). Source: The American Heart Association.

Rate your weight with BMI (body mass index)

BMI (body mass index) is a valuable health predictor. The higher your BMI number, the higher the risk of health problems including coronary heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. Body mass index (BMI) is a gender-free measurement that relates height to weight. To get your BMI, use the following equation:

Your weight (lbs)/Your height (in)2 × 705

For a person who weighs 138 pounds and stands 5’3” tall, the equation looks like this:

BMI = W/H2 × 705

= (138 pounds/63 × 63 inches) × 705

= (138/3969) × 705

= 24.5 BMI

Apply your BMI number to the following categories:

BMI Status
<18.5 Underweight
18.5-24.9 Healthy
25-29.9 Overweight
>30 Obese
>40 Extremely obese

Source: The National Center for Health Statistics

Tips to control cholesterol

Some things that affect your cholesterol you have control over. Put these healthy lifestyle guidelines into use to elevate your HDLs (good cholesterol) and decrease the LDLs (bad cholesterol), along with keeping your heart healthy.

  • Cut back on fatty foods.

  • Lose a few pounds.

  • Exercise every day. Okay, every other day.

  • Stop smoking.

  • Drink in moderation.

Your diet matters when it comes to your cholesterol numbers. To help control your cholesterol by eating healthy, go with the American Heart Association’s 30-10-300 food plan:

  • No more than 30 percent of your total daily calories from fat

  • No more than 10 percent of your total daily calories from saturated fat

  • No more than 300 mg cholesterol a day

About This Article

This article is from the book:

About the book authors:

Carol Ann Rinzler has written more than 20 books on health and nutrition. Martin W. Graf, MD, has been a doctor of internal medicine for over 30 years.

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