Cholesterol isn’t all bad.
We all have and need this waxy, fat-like substance in our bodies. Our bodies make all the cholesterol we need. It is needed to make hormones, Vitamin D, and other substances that help with digestion. However; 1 out of 6 American adults have high cholesterol. Cholesterol travels through your blood and can build up in your arteries, causing problems. It is one of the major risk factors leading heart disease, heart attack, and stroke.
Cholesterol travels through the blood in little “packages” called lipoproteins. There a 2 kinds of lipoproteins: low density lipoproteins (LDL) and high density lipoproteins (HDL). We need healthy levels of both LDL and HDL, but when our levels are out of sync, this can lead to high cholesterol and cause problems. LDL is often referred to as “bad” cholesterol. High levels of this type of lipoprotein lead to a build-up in arteries. An excess of LDL can cause fatty deposits in artery walls, leading to “Atherosclerosis” (hardening of the arteries) which increases the risk of heart disease, heart attack, or stroke. HDL is often referred to as “good” cholesterol. Circulating HDL in the blood carries cholesterol from our bodies back to the liver. There the liver removes cholesterol from the body. The higher your levels of HDL, the lower your chances of forming build-up of fatty deposits in arteries.
Total cholesterol looks at blood levels of LDL, HDL and Triglycerides. Less than 200 mg/dl is desirable. 200 – 239 mg/dl is borderline high. 240 mg/dl and over is high. Diet is only one factor when it comes to managing your levels. While a healthy diet is important, there are other factors that can contribute to high cholesterol. Physical inactivity, being overweight, heredity, and age can also contribute as well.
To lower your risk of high cholesterol:
- Eat a healthy diet, decrease intake of saturated and trans fat intake
- Exercise daily – 30 min of brisk walking
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Have your levels checked and discuss with your doctor