• Cholesterol

    Your body needs cholesterol. This waxy substance is found in every cell in the body and aids in many vital functions, including digestion and hormone and vitamin D production.

    When your body has too much of it, though, cholesterol can build up in arteries and lead to heart disease and stroke.

    Medication

    Many people need medication to get their LDL levels to a safe level. Medication to lower cholesterol levels is effective and safe. (But taking medication is not a substitute for exercise or watching your diet!) Your doctor can tell you whether you might benefit from a cholesterol-lowering medication.

    Good and Bad Cholesterol

    Lipids are fats, and blood is mostly water. Fat and water don’t mix. So we need lipoproteins (lipids packaged in a protein shell) to carry the lipids. The protein shell lets lipoproteins enter the bloodstream, carrying their cargo of lipids. There are two main kinds of lipoproteins:

    LDL (low-density lipoprotein) is known as “bad cholesterol.” Its cargo is mainly cholesterol. It delivers this cholesterol to body cells. If there’s too much LDL cholesterol, it can build up in artery walls. This increases your risk of heart disease and stroke.

    HDL (high-density lipoprotein) is known as “good cholesterol.” It consists mostly of a protein shell. This lipoprotein collects excess cholesterol that LDLs have left behind on blood vessel walls. That’s why high levels of HDL cholesterol can decrease your risk of heart disease and stroke.

    Controlling Cholesterol Levels

    Total cholesterol includes LDL and HDL cholesterol, as well as other fats in the bloodstream. If your total cholesterol is high, follow the steps below to help lower your total cholesterol level.

    Eat Less Unhealthy Fat

    • Cut back on saturated fats and trans (also called hydrogenated) fats.
    • Eat about 2 servings of fish per week. Most fish contain omega-3 fatty acids. These help lower blood cholesterol.
    • Eat more whole grains and soluble fiber (such as oat bran). These lower overall cholesterol.

    Be Active

    • Choose an activity you enjoy. Walking, swimming, and riding a bike are easy ways to start.
    • Start at a level where you feel comfortable. Increase your time and pace a little each week.
    • Work up to 30 minutes on most days. You can break this up into three 10-minute periods. If you haven’t been exercising regularly heck in with your doctor before you get started.

    Stop Smoking

    • Stopping smoking can improve your lipid levels and lowers your risk for heart disease and stroke.