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Cholesterol: LDL isn't your only worry

August 7, 2008 | 11:27 am

HdlPeople focus intently on their bad cholesterol because it's, well, bad. This is low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol that contributes to heart disease if too much of it circulates in the bloodstream. But let's not forget about HDL cholesterol and triglycerides.

A study published today in the American Heart Journal found that 37% of Americans with diseases that affect the heart and vascular system had recommended levels of LDL but only 17% were at the recommended levels of all the lipids: LDL, HDL and triglycerides. The survey was conducted of nearly 3,000 adults.

The nation has focused on lowering LDL because of the availability of drugs called statins, says lead researcher Nathan D. Wong, director of the Heart Disease Prevention Program at UC Irvine. There has been little change in the nation's HLD level (the good cholesterol), and triglyceride levels have actually increased.

"This is not good news, as these factors are important components of cardiovascular health," Wong says.

Of course, statins lower LDL but there are fewer good tactics to raise HDL. Scientists are working like crazy on ways to raise HDL. A good diet, exercise, weight control and minimal stress may help in the meantime.

Know your numbers. People with known cardiovascular diseases should have LDL levels of 100 milligrams or lower (130 milligrams for most other adults). For all adults, HDL should be 40 milligrams or higher for men and 50 milligrams or higher for women. Triglyceride levels should be below 150 milligrams. For a primer on cholesterol facts, go to the American Heart Assn. website.

-- Shari Roan

Photo: Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times