What is Cholesterol and How Does it Affect my Heart?

Quick Facts on Cholesterol

  • Your Liver produces Cholesterol
  • Our Body Needs Cholesterol to help structure cell walls, produce Vitamin D, make bile, and create hormones
  • Cholesterol is found in Animal Products such as Meat and Dairy
  • There are 3 types of Cholesterol – LDL or the “Bad” cholesterol. HDL or the “Good” cholesterol, and Triglycerides

Cholesterol Risk Factors and Ways to Improve

Risk Factors

  • Excess Weight or Obesity 
  • Unhealthy Diet
  • Lack of Physical Activity
  • Smoking which also increases your risk of Heart Disease
  • Genetic Factors or Inheriting Hypercholesterolemia, a condition with very high LDL levels
  • Diabetes
  • Liver or Kidney Disease
  • Underactive Thyroid Gland
  • Drugs that increase LDL levels and lower HDL levels such as Progestins, Anabolic Steroids, or Corticosteroids

Lifestyle Changes

  • Achieve and Maintain a Healthy Weight – Being Overweight raises LDL and lowers HDL
  • Eat a Heart Healthy Diet – Choose recipes and foods that are low in Saturated Fat and Sodium
  • Regular Exercise – Aim for 30 minutes a day/5 days a week
  • Avoid or Quit Smoking which will lower your LDL levels and increase HDL levels
  • Understand Your Family History 
  • Know Your Cholesterol Numbers
  • Regular discussions with Your Doctor about Your Health and Medications

Know Your Cholesterol Numbers

High cholesterol usually has no symptoms. That’s why it’s important to have your doctor check your cholesterol levels with a simple blood test.   The American Heart Association recommends healthy adults, aged 20 and older, have their cholesterol checked every four to six years.  Adults with health risks will need more frequent tests and should talk with a Doctor.  Once you understand your numbers you can make Lifestyle choices that can improve your cholesterol numbers.

Total Cholesterol:

Healthy = Less than 200 mg

Borderline = 200 to 239 mg

High = Above 240 mg

Triglycerides:

Normal = Less than 150 mg

Borderline High = 150 to 199 mg

High = 200 to 499 mg

Very High = Above 500 mg

LDL (Low-Density Lipoproteins):

Healthy = Less than 100 mg

Acceptable, but may be of concern for anyone with Risk Factors = 100 to 129 mg

Borderline High = 130 to 159 mg

High = 160 to 189 mg

Very High = 190 mg or higher

HDL (High-Density Lipoprotein):

Optimal = 60 mg or higher

Borderline Low = 41 to 59 mg

Can be a Major Risk Factor for Heart Disease = Less than 40 mg

Cholesterol Lowering Foods

  • Oats
  • Barley and Whole Grains
  • Beans
  • Eggplant and Okra
  • Nuts
  • Vegetable Oil (Canola, Grapeseed, Avocado)
  • Fatty Fish (Salmon, Tuna, Sardines)
  • High Fiber Foods

Foods that Increase LDL (Bad) Cholesterol

  • Butter or Ghee
  • Red Meat
  • Dark Meat and Skin from Poultry
  • Full-Fat Dairy
  • Hydrogenated Oil
  • Tropical Oils (Coconut, Palm Oil, Cocoa Butter)
  • Refined Carbs and Sugar

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