Is This What Your Cholesterol Number Should Be?!

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Lyle: What is normal cholesterol?

Robert Kowalski: OK

Lyle: Is there normal cholesterol?

Kowalski: Yeah, yeah, absolutely.  The reality is this, we can't live without cholesterol.  If we didn't have cholesterol, we would literally die. It's necessary...our brains are composed almost entirely of fat and cholesterol.  The lining, the protective sheath around our nerves, made of cholesterol.  Our digestive enzymes, cholesterol.  Sex hormones, cholesterol. Every, almost every aspect of the body... the cell wall itself, cholesterol.  Can't live without it.  So much so that the body makes its own supply in the liver.  And in fact, you asked a little bit ago about the genetics. Well, some of us make more cholesterol than we need.  And by that I mean too much of the bad LDL cholesterol and not enough of the good HDL cholesterol that protects.  Its a reverse transport kind of a system.  

So, in terms of the numbers... interestingly, the doctors have seen over a period of time, really staying healthy, we need to get those numbers lower and lower.  Gosh, just 20 years ago when cholesterol first started being established as a risk factor, they said 'no higher than 239 for the total cholesterol, no higher than 140 for the bad LDL cholesterol.'  Well, today, we know those numbers were way, way off.  We want to keep the total under 200, ideally somewhere between 160 and 180.

Lyle: Now, that's very interesting because I have a friend who's doctor told him that he needed to get his cholesterol down somewhere near 150 to 120.  Isn't there a danger to, I mean isn't cholesterol have some positive things that it does?

Kolwalski: Oh yeah, it does.  Moreover, there's no real reason to get it down to 120.  150?  Absolutely, and especially that LDL, the low choles... the bad cholesterol the low density lipoprotein, LDL.  We want to get that down under 100 for all the population and if a person has had a family history, if you've already had what they called a coronary or cardiac event, that would be some angina, you've had a positive test for it on a treadmill, had a heart attack, whatever like that, that doctors know you have heart, heart disease or even beginnings of heart disease, they like to see that LDL down to about 70.  And for the total, again, in that 160-180 range.

I met with a fellow, THE doctor.  Almost genuflect and bow your head when you say his name.  That began the Framingham Study, doctor Castelli, doctor Castelli.  Wonderful, wonderful man.  Absolutely wonderful man.  Just as congenial as you can imagine.  And when we were chatting one time, he's now retired many, many years ago.  He said, 'Bob, in all the years that I've been studying people in this town of Framingham, Massachusetts, to see the development of heart disease, I've never seen a heart attack in anyone with a cholesterol level less than 155.  Never.  In decades of research.

Lyle: Well, if you're interested in knowing how you can bring your cholesterol down to the right level, and the things you can do to maintain it.  And other things that are very important to good healthy cholesterol health, we recommend this book.  And I'd like just to add to that, that one of the best resources that people can have is a good, personal, self help library of medical and health books.  Bob Kowalski is one of the premier authors of a number of these books and we look forward to talking to you more later.  Thank you.

Kowalksi:  My pleasure.



Robert Kowalski is the author of a number of books on heart and cardiovascular health. Here he explains what a 'normal' cholesterol level might be and what its role is in the body. He also shares an interesting story about a doctor and what he had noticed with the relationship between heart attacks and cholesterol.

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