Blood Pressure, Cholesterol, and Triglycerides Explained
Going to the doctor’s office can be a stupidly confusing experience. I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve gone in for an exam and the doctor would start throwing around words like triglycerides, blood pressure, or HDL/LDL cholesterol, and then tag on some magical ratio or number as a measurement…come on, is that number really supposed to mean anything to the average person??
He’d say something like “your LDL-to-HDL ratio is 95/60 mg/dl and your triglycerides are 145 mg/dl, you’re perfectly healthy.” Great…I’m glad the doctor says that I’m healthy, but I’d love to know what those numbers mean and HOW healthy they really are.
Here’s your guide to the numbers/ratios doctors use to determine your level of health, what these numbers measure, and what numbers to shoot for.
When cholesterol levels are too high the excess begins to stick to arterial walls, plaque forms (aka atherosclerosis), and ultimately coronary heart disease results. There are two types of cholesterol: HDL or “good” cholesterol, and LDL or “bad” cholesterol. LDL builds up on arterial walls and causes plaque to accumulate, HDL helps clean off the plaque and clears arterial walls.
- Good – < 200 mg/dl (mg per deciliter of blood)
- Elevated – 200-239 mg/dl
- High – >= 240 mg/dl
- Good – < 100 mg/dl
- Pretty good – 100-129 mg/dl
- Elevated – 130-159 mg/dl
- High – 160-189 mg/dl
- Very High 0 >= 190 mg/dl
- Low – < 40 mg/dl
- High – >= 60 mg/dl
Blood pressure is the amount of force applied to the arterial walls when the heart pumps blood. Systolic blood pressure refers to the maximum blood pressure, or the pressure when the heart is beating, and diastolic blood pressure refers to the minimum blood pressure, or the pressure when the heart is at rest. High blood pressure (hypertension) is a major risk factor for CHD, stroke, and heart attack. Blood pressure is measured by a sphygmomanometer (the squeezy cuff thing) and is given as a systolic/diastolic ratio (e.g. 120/80).
- Good – < 120 mm HG/ < 80 mm HG
- Pre-Hypertension – 120-139/80-89
- Stage 1 Hypertension – 140-159/90-99
- Stage 2 Hypertension – >= 160/>= 100
Triglycerides are the excess bits of fat that circulate throughout the blood stream. High levels are one of the major risk factors for atherosclerosis and coronary heart disease.
- Good – < 150 mg/dl
- Elevated – 150-199 mg/dl
- High – 200-499 mg/dl
- Very High – > 500 mg/dl
C-Reactive Protein (CRP)
C-reactive protein is a protein found in the blood that doctors use to measure levels of inflammation. Inflammation is a major cause of a cornucopia of horrible diseases, including diabetes, CHD, atherosclerosis, and cancer. You want CRP levels to be low, low, low.
- Low Risk of CHD – < 1.0 mg/dl
- Moderate CHD Risk – 1.0-3.0 mg/dl
- High CHD Risk – > 3.0 mg/dl
Fasting Blood Glucose
Fasting blood glucose measures the amount of sugar in the blood, which is primarily used as a test for diabetes.
- Good – < 100 mg/dl
- Pre-Diabetes – 100-125 mg/dl
- Diabetes – >= 126 mg/dl
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