Cholesterol is a member of the lipids (or fats) family. Cholesterol is made by the liver but is also a component of fat in certain foods we consume. Your body needs cholesterol to function, however, too much cholesterol can result in serious problems such as atherosclerosis (plaque build-up in the arteries). 

Cholesterol types -

  • LDL (bad) cholesterol: Low density lipoprotein (LDL cholesterol) is called the ‘bad cholesterol’ because it is the main source of cholesterol build-up and blockage in the arteries. This type can clog your arteries and put you at risk for a heart attack or stroke when too much is present in the blood stream. It’s produced naturally by the body, but eating too many foods with saturated fat, trans fats and cholesterol can increase your amount.

  • HDL (good) cholesterol: High density lipoprotein (HDL cholesterol) is called the ‘good cholesterol’ because it helps prevent cholesterol from building up in the arteries. Some studies suggest that high levels of this type of cholesterol may remove excess plaque from your arteries, slowing its buildup and helping to protect against a heart attack. Low HDL levels can actually increase your risk.

  • Triglycerides: Triglycerides are the most common type of fat in the body. Their role is to store excess energy from your diet. If you have an inactive lifestyle, a diet high in carbohydrates, smoke, are obese or drink too much alcohol, it can raise total cholesterol levels, and lead to high LDL and low HDL levels.

Total cholesterol:

Total cholesterol is a reading of the good and bad cholesterol and triglyceride level. High triglycerides are often associated with low HDL cholesterol which can increase your risk of atherosclerosis, even though your total cholesterol level may appear normal.

Know your numbers:

High cholesterol does not typically have any symptoms, so many people are unaware that their cholesterol levels are too high. Therefore, it is important to find out what your cholesterol numbers are. 

Cholesterol Readings

High Cholesterol:

High cholesterol increases your risk of heart attack and stroke. Too much LDL cholesterol in the blood (hypercholesterolemia), can lead to a build up in the walls of the arteries. Over time, this build up can cause a blockage in the arteries which can then cause a heart attack or stroke. 

Additionally, your HDL (good) levels can also be too low. With less HDL to help remove cholesterol from your arteries, your risk of atherosclerosis and blockages increases.

High cholesterol is a modifiable risk factor, which means a high cholesterol level can be lowered, reducing the risk of heart disease and stroke.

To reduce your risk for heart disease, it is important to:

  • Control any other risk factors you may have, such as high blood pressure, diabetes and smoking

  • Work out a healthy eating plan

  • Maintain a healthy weight

  • Engage in regular physical activity

  • Work with your doctor and take your medication as prescribed

In terms of managing cholesterol diet is extremely important. A heart-healthy diet emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, poultry, fish and nuts. Take steps to reduce your saturated fat and trans fat intake. This can mean limiting your intake of sugary foods and beverages, fried food and cooking with healthy oils. Additionally, you should pay attention to your consumption of red meat and dairy products, especially those with whole milk. 

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