According to the American Heart Association, cardiovascular disease (or heart disease) is the number one cause of death in the United States. Elevated cholesterol is one of the major contributors to heart disease and stroke. It is also associated with increased risk of future cardiovascular disease, which can begin in adolescence and progress asymptomatically for years. To maintain cardiovascular health it is important to stay on top of your cholesterol levels.
There are two types of cholesterol, LDL, which is often referred to as the bad cholesterol and HDL, the good cholesterol. Excess LDL cholesterol can lead to a build-up of plaque in the arteries which can decrease blood flow and lead to a heart attack. If plaque breaks off, tiny pieces of plaque and clotted blood flow through the vessels where they can lodge in the brain and cause a stroke.
At the time of every donation, Carter BloodCare provides basic health screenings for donors that include total cholesterol and blood pressure information. This is in addition to the mandated screenings for hemoglobin/hematocrit and transfusion-transmissible infectious diseases. These results allow donors to use their information to get a better handle on their health and well-being.
What do the numbers mean?
For adults over 20, the desirable level is less than 200 mg/dL. Values of 200 to 239 mg/dL are borderline high risk and values above 240 mg/dL are considered high risk for cardiovascular disease. If your value is above 200 mg/dL you should consult with your physician who might want to do additional tests.
For adolescents younger than age 20, the desirable level is less than 170 mg/dL. Values of 170 to 199 mg/dL are borderline high risk and values above 200 mg/dL are considered high risk for cardiovascular disease. If you are in this age category and your value is above 170 mg/dL you should also consult with your physician.
How you can monitor your cholesterol levels
There are usually no symptoms to let you know if your cholesterol levels are too high. That’s why it is important to have your levels checked regularly. One easy way to check your levels is to go to your healthcare provider and have them perform tests. However, if you would like more frequent and simpler updates on your cholesterol, all you need to do is give blood.
Before each donation at Carter BloodCare, donors go through a simple health screening to check pulse, blood pressure, temperature and hemoglobin. Blood samples taken prior to your donation are used for viral testing and for the cholesterol test results you can receive online in about a week. This is a part of our Wellness Program that helps donors keep track of their health and allows you to have your cholesterol tested more frequently.
For more information on cholesterol and cardiovascular health, visit the American Heart Association.