Does Cholesterol Really Count?
The Ideal Numbers for Women
LDL cholesterol below 100 milligrams per deciliter
LDL in your blood causes the buildup of fatty plaque inside the walls of your arteries. This narrows your blood vessels, creating a condition called atherosclerosis, which makes people more vulnerable to heart attacks and strokes from blood clots that block circulation to the heart or brain.
HDL cholesterol above 50
HDL in the blood works like a mop to sponge up excess LDL in the blood vessels and cart it to the liver for disposal. Young women often have more HDL than men. When estrogen levels drop after menopause, HDL does, too -- that may be why women on average get heart disease at least a decade later than men, usually after age 60.
Triglycerides below 150
This blood fat is a source of fuel for active muscles. When the body produces too much, however, the excess is stored in the fat cells and the liver. As you triglyceride level rises, your liver may produce less HDL and your LDL particles can become dangerously small and dense (see "LDL and Heart Attack Risk").
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