What Is Cholesterol
Cholesterol is a form of fat found in the blood and all cells of the body. It is critically important in helping form cell membranes, steroid hormones and bile acid, but cholesterol can also build up in the inner walls of the arteries that supply blood to the heart. Those deposits contribute to the formation of plaque, which can cause the arteries to narrow, making them less efficient at transporting blood.
This condition can lead to coronary heart disease. You can help reduce your risk of a heart event by lowering your cholesterol to a healthy level recommended by your doctor.1
There are two types of cholesterol that can be measured:
- Low-density Lipoproteins (LDL) This is the “bad” cholesterol, which increases your risk of heart disease. Too much LDL in the blood can lead to cholesterol build-up and artery blockages.
- High-density Lipoproteins (HDL) This is known as the “good” cholesterol because it works to slow the build-up of cholesterol by carrying it away from the arteries to be expelled from the body. High levels of HDL cholesterol seem to help protect against heart attack and other cardiovascular complications.2
Know Your LDL (Bad) Cholesterol Number
Get your cholesterol checked! Your LDL (bad) cholesterol number is very important. Your individual goal number will be based on your medical history and any risk factors or genetic predisposition you may have for heart disease.
Ask your doctor what your goal number should be. The average person should try to maintain an LDL cholesterol level below 130 mg/dL. If you have heart disease or diabetes, your goal should be less than 100 mg/dL. Ask your doctor to help you develop the right plan to reduce your cholesterol number to goal.3
Fighting high cholesterol isn’t easy, but it is very important! If you have high cholesterol, guidelines suggest that you be more careful about what you eat and exercise more. You also may take a daily medication to help reduce your LDL cholesterol levels. However, more than 60 percent of people treating high cholesterol with diet, exercise, and medication still have not lowered their cholesterol to within a healthy range.
The consequences can be very serious, because the higher your cholesterol numbers are, the higher your risk of a heart event. To mount a successful attack against cholesterol, you and your doctor may need to expand the scope of your treatment.4
There Are Two Sources of Cholesterol
In addition to being found in the foods we eat, cholesterol is produced naturally in the body. In fact, most Americans don’t know that heredity has a lot to do with high cholesterol. It’s true, there are there are two sources of cholesterol: cholesterol comes from the food you eat, and your body naturally produces it.
The amount you produce is influenced by your heredity. Lifestyle modifications such as diet and exercise help to lower cholesterol, although many patients still have higher levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol than they should.5
It is important to treat both sources of cholesterol – providing a more comprehensive treatment and even further lowering cholesterol to a healthy level. Talk with your doctor to find out what type of treatments, if any, is right for you.
Make Healthy Diet and Regular Physical Activity a Priority
Although medicine can be necessary to lower your cholesterol, it’s always important to maintain a healthy lifestyle, which includes low-saturated-fat and low-cholesterol foods and also regular physical activity.6 Many people have difficulty with high cholesterol simply because their body produces too much of it. But foods that are high in cholesterol or saturated fats also contribute to the problem.
To eat healthy, try oil-and-vinegar dressing on salads, remove excess fat from beef, and trim the skin from chicken. Read labels and replace higher-fat foods with those that are lower in fat.7 Consider heart-healthy cooking methods, such as baking, broiling, roasting, grilling or poaching. Use small amounts of polyunsaturated or monounsaturated fat.
|If You Usually Eat||Instead Try|
Whole or 2% Milk
Cheese or Sour Cream
Broiled or Baked Chicken
Fat-free (skim) or 1% Milk
Low-fat Cheese or Sour Cream
Make regular physical activity part of your life. Change your life add in regular aerobic activities. Pace yourself; it’s important to increase your activities gradually in accordance with your doctor’s recommendations. To help you develop a healthy lifestyle, we’ve included a few tips that can help you get started.8
|Join a gym or recruit an exercise partnerWalk on your lunch hour or coffee break
Take the stairs
Take the dog for an extra walk
|Increase the frequency of your exercise activitiesJoin a gym or recruit an exercise partner
Explore a new sport
Create an exercise schedule and stick to it
|Exercise at least five times a week for 30 to 60 minutesChoose activities like biking and swimming that use large muscle groups
Vary your routine to avoid burnout
- American Heart Association. 2002 Heart and Stroke Facts. Dallas, TX: AmericanHeart Association; 2001, 5
- Ibid, 5
- Ibid, 5
- MSP Patient Information Kit 0903zetez0192b and www.twocholesterolsources.com
- American Heart Association. 2002 Heart and Stroke Facts. Dallas, TX: American Heart Association; 2001;1