Maintaining normal cholesterol levels requires long-term dedication. Making dietary changes, getting enough exercise, and eliminating toxic behaviors are at the heart of achieving normal cholesterol levels. Medication may also be recommended to help patients on their journey to a healthy heart.
Cholesterol is produced by the liver and introduced to the body through the consumption of food. High levels of cholesterol can lead to dangerous conditions related to the heart, including heart attack and stroke. What physicians consider normal cholesterol levels depend on each patient. They are generally just used for guidance when evaluating specific age groups and those with similar medical histories and backgrounds.
There are several types of cholesterol in the body. Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol and high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol are the two most commonly discussed. Often referred to as the bad cholesterol, LDL cholesterol increases a patient’s risk of heart disease because they lead to the formation of potentially dangerous plaques and cause arterial walls to thicken. HDL cholesterol on the other hand helps remove cholesterol from the arteries and transport them to the liver. Optimum cholesterol levels focus on decreasing LDL cholesterol levels and increasing HDL cholesterol levels.
Dietary changes are the most effective way to achieve and maintain normal cholesterol levels. Choosing food that is free of saturated fats can help reduce cholesterol. Physicians recommend including fruits, vegetables, and whole grains as part of a heart healthy diet. Limiting sweets and processed foods is also necessary to help lower bad cholesterol levels. Other recommendations include choosing lean meats and poultry in place of high fat meats.
Keeping cholesterol levels in check also requires maintaining a healthy weight. Losing excess pounds and getting daily exercise can help a patient reach normal cholesterol levels. This complements eating a healthy diet to help achieve an overall healthy lifestyle. In addition to eating healthy and getting an appropriate amount of exercise, eliminating toxic behaviors, such as smoking, can help keep cholesterol levels in the normal range.
For some, medication may be the best option to lower cholesterol and help get it back within the normal range. Medications referred to as statins are typically prescribed to lower LDL cholesterol levels. These are normally prescribed along with a dietary management and exercise program as part of an overall cholesterol management regimen. Other medication options include niacin and fibrates. Some patients may be able to reduce cholesterol levels and stop taking this medication, while others may need to stay on the medication permanently.