The Balancing Act

Pay attention to the numbers if you have high cholesterol but low blood pressure.

Q: I have high cholesterol but very low blood pressure. Should I still worry about my cholesterol?

A: Heart disease is among the top health concerns for all of us; many factors can contribute to this, including high blood pressure and high cholesterol. These are not symptoms that always occur together, such as in your case. That’s why it is important to pay attention to both factors. It’s great that your blood pressure is low, but many studies show that high cholesterol levels can be linked to heart disease.

So know your numbers: While your total cholesterol is a key value, you’ll also want to pay attention to your levels of HDL (you want this number to be high) and LDL (you want this number to be low) cholesterol. You’ll also want to know your triglyceride (TG) levels (another blood fat). Together, these numbers give a snapshot of your lipid health. Your target numbers can vary depending on your family history, so check with your doctor to discuss your own. Current national guidelines for healthy people without a family or personal history of heart disease are: total cholesterol, 200; LDL, 130; HDL, 45; and TG levels, 150.

Dr. Madelyn H. Fernstrom, Ph.D., C.N.S., is the founder and director of UPMC’s Weight Management Center. She is the diet and nutrition editor for NBC’s “Today Show” and is the author of The Runner’s Diet and The Real You Diet. Also, visit “Health Journal with Dr. Madelyn Fernstrom,” a health and wellness blog at

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