Last updated: May 08, 2008
A smarter way of looking at cholesterol risk is by component. LDL, or bad cholesterol, is very responsive to good nutrition and exercise. The target number is less than 100 mg/dL. It's not uncommon for LDL to swing up by 40% in response to a sedentary lifestyle and a diet high in saturated and other unhealthy fats, according to Dr. Mays.
Being overweight can also raise your triglycerides, for which the goal is 150 mg/dL or under. High triglycerides put you at risk for type 2 diabetes, which is a coronary heart disease risk equivalent; this means that if you have diabetes, you have the same risk of dying from cardiovascular problems as someone who already has coronary heart disease.
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Certain medications, including the steroid prednisone and HIV drugs, can affect your cholesterol panel negatively, so much so that people who are on protease inhibitors for HIV need to be concerned about developing heart disease, and not just AIDS, according to Dr. Mays.