heart_basics

Cholesterol

Cholesterol is a fat-like substance found inside every cell in your body and is a necessary substance that your body requires to function properly. Cholesterol does such things as make hormones, Vitamin D, and substances that help you to digest foods.

If you have ever tried to mix oil and water you know that they do not mix. Cholesterol and blood are the same as oil and water. Therefore cholesterol is carried through the blood by something called lipoproteins. Lipoproteins are made up of fat (inside) and proteins (outside). There are different types of lipoproteins that carry cholesterol through your body.

LDL (Low-Density Lipoprotein) is also known as the “bad” cholesterol. This type of cholesterol in large quantities leads to a buildup of cholesterol in your arteries. Over time, this can lead to heart disease.

HDL (High-Density Lipoprotein), or “good” cholesterol, carries cholesterol from various parts of your body to your liver. The liver then removes the cholesterol from your body. High HDL (good) cholesterol reduces your risk of getting heart disease whereas high LDL (bad) cholesterol increases your risk of getting heart disease.

The following chart shows the ranges for total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels.

Total Cholesterol Level  Category
Less than 200 mg/dL Desirable
200-239 mg/dL Borderline High
240 mg/dL and above High
LDL Cholesterol Level LDL Cholesterol Category 
Less than 100 mg/dL Optimal
100-129 mg/dL Near optimal/above optimal
130-159 mg/dL Borderline high
160-189 mg/dL High
190 mg/dL Very High

You should get your cholesterol tested regularly. If your cholesterol is considered high, work with your doctor to identify a treatment plan that is right for you. Your doctor may suggest making lifestyle changes such as modifying your diet, reducing your weight, and increasing your level of physical activity. If lifestyle changes aren’t enough to lower your LDL (bad) cholesterol, your physician may discuss other treatment options. Because everyone is different, it is important to work with your doctor to identify the treatment plan that is right for you.

Source: National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute 

Know Your Health Tips – Cholesterol

  1. Have your cholesterol levels checked regularly – knowing your numbers helps you stay in charge of your health.
  2. Participate in a minimum of 30-60 minutes of moderately intense activity 5 times per week.
  3. Avoid foods high in saturated fats, such as butter, margarine, and vegetable oil; choose healthier canola or olive oil instead.
  4. Get more fiber in your diet to help lower your cholesterol.
  5. Eat more fish, which is high in the cholesterol-combatting omega-3 fatty acids.
  6. Reduce alcohol consumption.
  7. Choose nuts for a snack to help lower cholesterol (but look for them with reduced or no salt).
  8. Quit using tobacco products, which can harden the arteries.
  9. Check the food label to find out how much cholesterol it contains, plus which ingredients the cholesterol comes from.
  10. Try swapping out your afternoon coffee for a fruit smoothie, which provides a natural source of energy while increasing your fiber intake.

Sources: American Heart Association; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Mayo Clinic; MedlinePlus – National Institutes of Health

Tools and Resources for Cholesterol

High Blood Cholesterol Prevention
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

What is Cholesterol?
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute

Common Misconceptions About Cholesterol
American Heart Association

Cholesterol IQ Quiz
American Heart Association