Most of us have heard about high cholesterol being a problem for our blood vessels. By causing damage to the inside of arteries where plaque may form, uncontrolled cholesterol will increase the risk of stroke, heart attacks and peripheral vascular disease affecting blood flow to your feet. When you have a stroke or symptoms of a stroke, your cholesterol level is checked in the hospital. Several levels are measured:
- Total cholesterol This number should be less than 200 for all adults.
- LDL This is type of cholesterol believed to damage the lining of your arteries. Most people should have an LDL greater than 100. If you have had a stroke or heart attack this number should be less than 70.
- HDL This is the good cholesterol as it is believed to protect your heart. Most people should have an HDL of less than 40.
Stroke survivors should have an HDL of less than 50.
- Triglycerides Triglycerides should be less than 150 for everyone. Many things will make your triglycerides rise, including high blood sugars, obesity, estrogen replacement, steroids and more.
Steps to Improve Your Cholesterol
A diet high in fresh produce; a lifestyle high in physical activity; and statins—a group of medications for cholesterol and arterial health, will bring down your LDL and push up your HDL. Triglycerides can be brought down with improvements in weight and diet, as well as changes to your medications.
The most important medical intervention known for high cholesterol—or even for normal cholesterol if someone has a stroke, are medications know as statins. Statins help promote healing of arteries and have been shown to increase life expectancy.