Does Cholesterol Really Count?
It has been drummed into our heads by doctors that keeping cholesterol in check is one of the best ways to avoid a heart attack. Nevertheless, many of us are still confused about the best ways to tame cholesterol. For starters, it doesn't help that there are four different numbers to measure cholesterol and triglycerides, the other blood fat that affects heart health. Which levels count the most depends on your individual health situation. Your total cholesterol count and level of low-density lipoprotein (LDL), the so-called bad cholesterol, are only two pieces of a complicated puzzle. Also important are your levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL), the "good" cholesterol, and triglycerides, another blood fat that affects your cholesterol levels. An additional key difference is the type of LDL you have: One kind may put you at much higher risk of dying of heart disease than the other. All these factors go into figuring out what you need to do to keep your heart strong -- and whether reaching those goals requires taking medication. Here, the latest, best advice.