Cholesterol 101 for Seniors

Sep 27th, 2010 | By Sharon Shaw Elrod MSW EdD | Category: Senior Moments Blog

If you’re like me, I have never been able to understand good and bad cholesterol and keep it straight in my head.  And lipids?  What’s that got to do with cholesterol? 

Well, here are some answers, and I finally have it straight.

Lipids: lipids are the fats in your blood stream; we all have them and they are necessary for good health; but when they get unbalanced, we could be in for trouble.

Cholesterol: waxy, sticky stuff that attaches to proteins in the lipids in your blood stream; cholesterol is required for building healthy cells, but like chocolate, too much

is not a good thing; if your blood stream gets clogged up with the waxy, sticky stuff, your heart doesn’t get the oxygen it needs and your brain is at risk for not getting enough oxygen; the heart problem can develop into a heart attack and the brain problem into a stroke; not good things;

Bad Cholesterol: this is known as LDL (remember this little trick, “D” is close to “B” in the alphabet) or Low Density Lipoprotein; LDL is the train that carries cholesterol throughout your blood stream, and too much of it can make your arteries hard and narrow;

Good Cholesterol: this is known as HDL (here’s the trick again, “H” and “G” are close in the alphabet) or High Density lipoprotein; this cholesterol picks up excess cholesterol and takes it to the liver for processing out of the body;

Most major medical centers in the United States today agree on the numbers that are calculated by the lab when blood tests are run; however all senior citizens need to understand that their unique and individual situation may have unusual considerations, therefore your physician needs to be the one to determine with you what your numbers need to be; the numbers below are offered as a general guideline only:

  • Total cholesterol should be below 200 mg/dl; 
  • LDL cholesterol is ideal between 100-130, and even better if below 100, if you are not at risk for heart disease;
  •  HDL cholesterol should be at 60 mg/dl or above for the ideal condition;
  • Triglicerides is another kind of fat in your blood, and this lab number should be at 150 or below

If you have had a previous heart attack or stroke and/or have artery blockages, you are at high risk for heart disease.  In addition if you smoke, have diabetes, high blood pressure, low HDL (the good stuff–remember H & D go together), have a family history of heart disease or are above 45 (men) 55(women), your risk for heart disease increases. 

And remember the things you can do to keep your cholesterol in check: medications your doctor prescribes for your individual situation, diet, exercise, weight loss, don’t smoke, drink alcohol in moderation and check on alternative medical options that may be helpful in your situation. Your physician needs to be involved in the plan you develop to manage any cholesterol issues you may have.

Be sure to talk with your primary care physician about your cholesterol; she/he is the expert and needs to be able to assist you in treating your unique health issues.



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  1. [...] Understanding cholesterol is not easy. If the ‘good’ stuff is too low and the ‘high’ stuff is too high, we senior citizens can be in trouble. Here are some answers.Go to Source [...]

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