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Quality Health Care and You - Diabetes

Understanding Bad Cholesterol

05/22/2008

Question:

What does "bad" cholesterol mean? I was told by my doctor`s nurse that a normal level is 99, but mine is 138. Could you please tell me what this means?

Answer:

This isn`t "alternative medicine", but I can answer it! The "bad" cholesterol refers to the LDL cholesterol. That`s the part of the total cholesterol that, if elevated, increases your chances of having a heart attack. Normally, if you don`t have heart disease or diabetes, it is suggested that your LDL should be below 130. If you have heart disease or diabetes, it is suggested that you keep the LDL below 100. Plenty of fruits and vegetables and weight loss can help. Garlic may be helpful as well. Your doctor may want to give you a cholesterol lowering medication right now to lower it quickly while you work on your diet and try to lose weight. It is possible to come off of that medicine (sometimes) if you can get to your ideal body weight. Even though it is counter-intuitive, the Atkins diet which lets you eat all the meat and fat you want has actually been shown to lower the total and LDL cholesterol. It is a great way to lose weight. I put many of my patients on it. Instead of eating lots of red meat as Atkins suggests, you might want to stick to fish, fish, fish, and some poultry. 

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Response by:

Tanya I Edwards, MD, MEd Tanya I Edwards, MD, MEd
Formerly, Associate Professor of Medicine
School of Medicine
Case Western Reserve University