The good news is that you need some cholesterol to maintain a healthy body, but the bad news is that eating too much might have the opposite effect. A 375 mg/dL cholesterol level is alarmingly high, and puts you at a higher risk for potentially life-threatening health problems. Luckily, you can take action right now to lower your number and improve your quality of health.
Cholesterol is a waxy component of the fats you have in your blood. You need small amounts of cholesterol so your body is able to make healthy cells among other things. When your blood contains too much cholesterol, it can start to collect along the walls of your blood vessels. As it builds up, your heart has to work harder to pump blood, which leads to cardiovascular disease. Certain medical problems, such as diabetes and kidney disease, can elevate your cholesterol levels, but in most cases high cholesterol is preventable.
Cholesterol Levels Explained
There are two main types of cholesterol, and they're measured by how many milligrams of cholesterol are in one deciliter of your blood. The bad cholesterol is called low-density lipoprotein or LDL, and the good cholesterol is called high-density lipoprotein, or HDL. When your cholesterol levels are checked, you'll usually get three numbers in your lab results. The first number is your total cholesterol reading, which should be less than 200 mg/dL. You'll also get your LDL number, which should be 100 mg/dL or less, and your HDL number, which should be 60 mg/dL or higher. High total cholesterol is 240 mg/dL or higher, so a reading of 375 mg/dL total cholesterol is dangerously high.
High cholesterol is a major women's health issue, and more women have been diagnosed with the condition than men, according to the National Women's Health Resource Center. Because having high cholesterol stresses your heart and arteries, you're at an increased risk for a heart attack or a stroke. If you have very high cholesterol, it might also block blood flow to your extremities, which can result in pain, tingling and numbness.
If you have a 375 mg/dL total cholesterol reading, you need to take immediate action to reduce your risk of health problems. Being overweight, smoking and drinking heavily can all contribute to high cholesterol. Change your eating habits and increase physical activity to shed excess weight. Certain foods, such as oatmeal, fish, nuts, olive oil, fruit and vegetables, might help lower your cholesterol levels. Cut out greasy, fatty and sugary foods, too. You'll be able to lose more weight. Stop smoking and reduce how much alcohol you drink to reduce your cholesterol levels even more. Follow your doctor's treatment plan exactly, which might include dietary and lifestyle changes and might also require you to take a cholesterol-lowering medication.
- MayoClinic.com: High Cholesterol
- University of Maryland Medical Center: High Blood Cholesterol
- American Heart Association: What Your Cholesterol Levels Mean
- National Women's Health Resource Center: Cholesterol
- MayoClinic.com: Cholesterol: Top 5 Foods to Lower Your Numbers
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Cholesterol: Lifestyle Changes
Sara Ipatenco has taught writing, health and nutrition. She started writing in 2007 and has been published in Teaching Tolerance magazine. Ipatenco holds a bachelor's degree and a master's degree in education, both from the University of Denver.