BayCare provides a variety of resources and information about maintaining cardiovascular health so that patients throughout the Tampa Bay area can make lifestyle adjustments and reduce their risk of developing heart disease. Maintaining healthy cholesterol levels is an essential part of good vascular health. A common misconception is that all forms of cholesterol are unhealthy. On the contrary, your body requires cholesterol to build new cells, produce steroid hormones, and make bile, which helps to digest fat. Too much of this lipid, however, can lead to a condition called atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis is a buildup of plaque in the arteries, causing them to harden, and is a leading cause of heart disease.
The “Good Cholesterol” and the “Bad Cholesterol”
The key to maintaining healthy cholesterol levels is to increase your intake of high-density lipoprotein (HDL), also known as the “good cholesterol, and minimize your intake of low-density lipoprotein, which is the “bad cholesterol.” So what makes one healthy and the other risky?
- LDL – Low-density lipoproteins carry cholesterol to the body’s cell where it can be used for any of the previously mentioned purposes. Certain cells in the body, however, don’t accept LDL. The cells that do accept LDL can only accept a limited amount, in which case any excess remains in the bloodstream where it may be deposited on the walls of arteries. Foods that contain high levels of LDL cholesterol include butter, fried foods, fish packed in oil, cheese, shellfish, and processed meats.
- HDL – High-density lipoproteins are thought to carry cholesterol directly to the liver, where it is processed and removed from the body. This type of cholesterol may also contain antioxidants which help to minimize the amount of damage that LDL inflicts on artery walls, in addition to helping remove LDL from the arteries and get it to the liver for reprocessing. Foods rich in HDL cholesterol include salmon, albacore tuna, walnuts, and olive oil.
Monitoring your levels of HDL, LDL, and triglycerides is an important part of heart disease prevention. A simple blood test is required to determine your levels. You may be required to fast, or stop eating, about 12 hours prior to your test. Your doctor will evaluate your cholesterol numbers as part of a broader picture of your heart disease risk factors, including age, weight, blood pressure, and family history. Your LDL should be no higher than 200 and your HDL should be no lower than 40.
Cholesterol Screenings & Other Resources from BayCare
BayCare offers a variety of cholesterol screening programs at our facilities throughout the Tampa Bay area. You can register for any of our classes and events located in Tampa, Clearwater, St. Petersburg, Lutz, Dunedin, New Port Richey, Riverview, Winter Haven and the surrounding areas of Hillsborough, Pasco, Polk and Pinellas counties.