A couple of friends have recently had their blood cholesterol levels tested. To aid in deciphering the numbers, I am including a link to the guidelines developed by the US's National Institutes of Health. It is well written and gives guidance on how to interpret the results.
Click here to start a heart healthy lifestyle
The 6-page PDF guide will address the following:
- What do the cholesterol numbers mean?
- What affects cholesterol levels?
- Includes a brief questionnaire to determine your risk of developing heart disease, or getting a heart attack.
- Treating high cholesterol.
- Therapeutic lifestyle changes to lower cholesterol.
Per guidelines, if you are over the age of 20, you need to get your blood cholesterol tested every five years. If you are over 30, make it every 2 years! Ask your doctor for a “Lipid Profile” (or cholesterol profile, or lipoprotein profile). In the US, just ask your primary care physician. In India I was told, most hospitals and clinics offer this service. It only requires a simple fasting blood draw. You should not have eaten any food or drinks 10-12 hours before the blood is taken. In most instances, this is not a problem. After an early, normal dinner, get the blood drawn first thing in the morning. You should get your results within a day.
There appears to be a big discrepancy in the way the lipid profile results are interpreted. There is also confusion regarding what should be the optimal levels of the various types of cholesterol. The interpretation of the results, and the 'advise' given by doctors varies, depending upon the skill of the doctor, and how well he or she is up to date on the latest health guidelines.
The United States' National Institutes of Health (NIH) is the leader in driving all basic science and clinical research, and develops various guidelines for all health related concerns. Thus the NIH is the “go-to” place for the most up to date health information.
The NIH's National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) manages all cardiovascular research. And the NHLBI develops the guidelines for blood cholesterol levels. The NHLBI's guidelines are in-turn adopted by the various non-governmental doctors groups and organizations such as the American Heart Association. If your doctor is a member of this or other such organization, or reads any of their literature, then he or she is made aware of the latest updates. Please don't go by 'average' population data. It only informs how a group of people (by city, country, gender, disease, etc) are doing, and not what you should be aiming for.
A long way of saying: Follow the NHLBI Guidelines
It is a handy guide. Read it and keep it with your medical records – so you know where to look for it the next time you have a blood test. And, share it with your friends.
Live long and prosper!