Q&A: Why All the Fuss About High Cholesterol?

Dr. Furman, I find the different numbers about cholesterol confusing. Can you help me understand if the results of my cholesterol test? 

Cholesterol is a fatty substance essential to the make up of every cell in our body. It aids in hormone production, the metabolism of certain vitamins, and insulates nerve fibers. So, why all the fuss about having high cholesterol?

The two main types of cholesterol we are concerned with should be familiar to you from your doctor’s lab report, Low Density (LDL) and High Density Lipoprotein (HDL). I like to say that “L” stands for “lethal” or “bad” cholesterol, and you want it to be Iow. The “H” stands for “healthy” or “good” cholesterol. You want your HDL to be high since it’s a “hero” fighting the “bad” LDL cholesterol in your arteries.

Adding the LDL and HDL together reveals your Total Cholesterol, with the vast portion of that number consisting of the “bad” kind of cholesterol. There are not as many of the “hero” HDL particles, but they are much more powerful than the “lethal” LDL ones.

Here’s the quickest formula to know whether your cholesterol levels are healthy or a cause for concern. The numbers we shoot for in the Prescription For Life Plan are:

  • Total Cholesterol of 200
  • LDL Cholesterol of 100
  • An HDL/Total Cholesterol ratio of less than 3.5

It is very important to know and understand your cholesterol numbers. Numerous medical studies have shown that high cholesterol is a precursor to heart attacks and strokes. One such study showed that men who had the most favorable, lower level of Total Cholesterol had a life expectancy of 8.7 years longer than the ones with the most unfavorable, higher level of Total Cholesterol. To emphasize such articles is the fact that the most prescribed drug in the U.S. is for cholesterol lowering medication.

However, you need to realize that it is more than just a number you are shooting for; taking a pill alone is not the answer. Lifestyles changes can help you achieve a healthy heart and a vibrant active life. Prescription For Life goes into detail explaining how important each of your cholesterol numbers and explains steps to take to lower your “lethal” LDL cholesterol as well what you can do to raise your ”hero” HDL.

Discover the best ways to prevent heart disease, feel better, and live longer in Dr. Furman’s book, Prescription for Life.


“High Cholesterol” by Scott Miles courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net