The Numbers: 200 mg/dL (Total Cholesterol)
When it comes to Good and Bad Cholesterol, what’s the difference, and one and for all- is it ok to eat eggs, or not? We’ll get to the egg portion of the program in a minute, but first, a primer on Cholesterol- what is is, why it matters, and how to make sense of the madness, once and for all.
It’s important to understand that there are two types of Cholesterol regularly discussed in the media. The first- Blood Cholesterol- is a measure of how much Cholesterol is circulating in your blood stream. The second- Dietary Cholesterol- refers to the amount of cholesterol in specific foods. Both are commonly referred to as simply “Cholesterol”, which can be confusing for consumers.
Making matters even more confusing, Dietary Cholesterol does not necessarily increase Blood Cholesterol, at least not to the degree we once assumed.
The new dietary cholesterol guidelines reflect this- for consumers not at heightened risk for cardiovascular disease (CVD)- those who are not overweight or obese, and those without hypertension, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, high triglycerides, pre diabetes, Type II Diabetes, or family history of heart disease, heart attack, or stroke- the consumption of Dietary Cholesterol isn’t nearly the health risk health professionals warned us about in the 1970’s, when the “low-fat” craze swept the nation, and eggs and other high-cholesterol foods were swept from our kitchen tables.
As it turns out, the consumption of Trans Fats (ie, hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils) and the overconsumption of Saturated Fat are what can increase risk for CVD, even in populations not necessarily at a heightened risk. While you shouldn’t take that as free license to slam down a cheese-laden omelette, a few eggs a week is nothing to worry about.
The amount of Trans-Fat and Saturated Fat you consume (in addition to other lifestyle factors, such as being overweight or obese) are what can really do a number on your Cholesterol. Total Cholesterol is calculated by adding your HDL (good cholesterol), LDL (bad cholesterol), and 20% of your Total Triglycerides. All three are calculated by a simple blood test at your Doctor’s office.
HDL Cholesterol is regularly referred to as “good” cholesterol, because it is responsible for sweeping excess cholesterol from the arteries, preventing heart attack. LDL Cholesterol- regularly referred to as “bad” cholesterol- has the opposite effect- it’s the primary vehicle for arterial blockages.
Ideally, you want your HDL cholesterol at 40 mg/dL or higher, and your LDL at 100 mg/dL or lower. Your Total Dietary Cholesterol should measure less than 200 mg/dL. Anything above that and you may be inching your way towards a heart attack or stroke. If you’re curious or concerned about your numbers, don’t be shy- visit a Doctor’s office to get an inside peek at your heart- it may just punch you a ticket to a healthier future and a longer life.