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Cholesterol

Cholesterol is both good and bad. At normal levels, it is an essential substance for the body.

Cholesterol has four primary functions. These are:

  • contributing to the structure of cell walls
  • making up digestive bile acids in the intestine
  • allowing the body to produce vitamin D
  • enabling the body to make certain hormones

But, if concentrations in the blood get too high, it puts people at risk of heart attack. A build-up of cholesterol is part of the process that narrows arteries, causing restriction of blood flow.

Causes

Cholesterol is present in every cell of the body. The body produces it, but people also consume it in food. It is waxy and fat-like in appearance.

Risks

Low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels tend to increase as people get older. Other causes of high LDL (bad) cholesterol levels include:

  • Family history of high LDL cholesterol
  • High blood pressure or type 2 diabetes
  • Smoking
  • Being overweight
  • Not getting enough physical activity
  • Eating too much saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol – and not enough fruits and vegetables
  • Taking certain medicines, like medicines to lower blood pressure

Causes of low HDL (good) cholesterol levels include:

  • Smoking
  • Being overweight
  • Not getting enough physical activity
  • Eating too much sugar and starch (called carbohydrates)
  • Not eating enough fruits, vegetables, and unsaturated fat (like olive oil)

Diagnosis

Risk

Total blood cholesterol

LDL cholesterol

HDL cholesterol

Triglycerides

Normal

Less than 200 mg/dL

Less than 129 mg/dL

Less than 150 mg/dL

Less than 150 mg/dL

Borderline

200-239 mg/dL

130-159 mg/dL

150-199 mg/dL

150-199 mg/dL

High risk

240 mg/dL and over

160 mg/dL and over

200 mg/dL and over

200 mg/dL and over


Treatment

Your doctor may recommend a statin drug to help lower your cholesterol.

Medicines To Help You

Managing Your Condition

  • Exercise regularly.
  • Don’t smoke.
  • Eat heart-healthy foods:
  • Eat less saturated fat, which comes from animal products (like cheese, fatty meats, and dairy desserts) and tropical oils (like palm, palm kernel, and coconut oil). Use healthy oils (like olive, peanut, or canola oil) instead.
  • Choose foods with healthy fat, such as olives, avocados, nuts, and fish. Stay away from trans fats, which may be in foods like stick margarines, coffee creamers, and some desserts.
  • Limit foods that are high in cholesterol, including fatty meats and organ meat (like liver and kidney).
  • Limit foods that are high in sodium (salt) or added sugar.
  • Choose low-fat or fat-free milk, cheese, and yogurt.
  • Eat more foods that are high in fiber.

Your Guide to Lowering Cholesterol with TLC