What is cholesterol and why should yon be concerned about it?
Cholesterol is a waxy substance produced by the liver, and also supplied in the diet through animal products such as meats, fish poultry and dairy products. The most commonly known types are:
High, cholesterol is bad for your health because it can eventually lead to heart disease. If there is too much cholesterol in your blood, it can start to build up on the walls of your arteries and form a thick plaque. Over time, this plaque can cause your arteries to become hard and narrow, reducing the amount of blood that gets to your heart. If this occurs m your coronary artery, it is known as coronary artery disease. If a coronary artery becomes totally blocked, then no oxygen can get to the heart, resulting in a heart attack. Heart attacks can severely damage the heart; about 40% of them are fatal.
Low-density lipoprotein, or LDL cholesterol, is known as "the bad cholesterol". Excess LDL builds up on your arteries and may lead to heart disease. High-density lipoprotein, or HDL cholesterol, has earned the nickname the "good cholesterol". That's because it is believed to remove cholesterol from the blood. Triglycerides are another type of fat in your blood stream. People with a high blood triglyceride level may also have a high LDL level.
How can high cholesterol be reduced?
A healthy, low fat diet that includes fruits, vegetables and whole grains, along with regular exercise can help reduce cholesterol. Once you have had your cholesterol levels checked, your doctor can help you develop a diet and exercise plan that's right for you. Though, diet and exercise play an important part in every cholesterol-reducing program, unfortunately this alone may not be enough to get your cholesterol levels down to where your doctor would like them to be.
What should your cholesterol level be, and how often should it be checked?
Your ideal LDL "bad" cholesterol level depends upon your individual risk category. To find your goal, check each of the risk factors that apply to you, then see the chart at the bottom of the page.
_____ I am male, at least 45 years oldTotal risk factors _____ .
_____ I am female, at least 55 years old
_____ I am female, under 55 years old with premature menopause and have not had estrogen replacement therapy
_____ Early heart disease runs in my family (a parent or sibling under 55 if male or under 65 if female)
_____ I am a smoker
_____ I have high blood pressure
_____ I have diabetes
_____ I have a low HDL "good" cholesterol level (less than 35 mg/dl)
_____ My HDL "good" cholesterol level is higher than 60 mg/dl, so I can subtract one risk factor.
|RISK CATEGORY||GOAL FOR LDL "BAD" CHOLESTEROL|
|With heart disease||100 mg/dl or less|
|No heart disease but with 2 or more risk factors||Under 130 mg/dl|
|No heart disease and fewer than 2 risk factors||Under 160 mg/dl|
Adults over the age of 20 should nave their cholesterol levels tested every 5 years. Depending upon your medical and family history, your doctor or healthcare professional may want to monitor your cholesterol levels at more frequent intervals.