Track It for Life and Stay Healthy for Life

What is cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a waxy substance your body uses to protect nerves, make cell tissues and produce certain hormones. Some cholesterol is essential for health. Your liver makes all the cholesterol your body needs. How much and what types of cholesterol your liver makes depends on 2 factors: what types of fats you eat and your inherited genetic tendencies. Your body may get cholesterol directly from the food you eat (such as eggs, meats and dairy products). Too much cholesterol in your blood can raise your risk of having a heart attack or stroke.

What is the difference between “good” cholesterol and “bad” cholesterol?

Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) is often called “bad” cholesterol. It delivers cholesterol to the body. High-density lipoprotein (HDL) is often called “good” cholesterol. It removes cholesterol from the bloodstream.

This explains why too much LDL cholesterol is bad for the body, and why a high level of HDL cholesterol is good. For example, if your total cholesterol level is high because of a high LDL level, you may be at higher risk of heart disease or stroke. But, if your total cholesterol level is high only because of a high HDL level, you're probably not at higher risk.

Triglycerides are another type of fat in your blood. When you eat more calories than your body can use, it turns the extra calories into triglycerides. When you change your lifestyle to improve your cholesterol levels, you want to lower LDL, raise HDL and lower triglycerides.

What lifestyle changes can I make to help improve my cholesterol levels?

Exercise regularly.
Exercisecan raise HDL cholesterol levels and reduce levels of LDL cholesterol and triglycerides. If you haven't been exercising, try to work up to 30 minutes, 4 to 6 times a week. Make sure you talk to your doctor before starting an exercise plan.

Lose weight if you are overweight.
Being overweight can raise your cholesterol levels. Losing weight, even just 5 or 10 pounds, can lower your total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels.

If you smoke, quit.
Smoking lowers your HDL cholesterol. Even exposure to second-hand smoke can affect your HDL level. Talk to your doctor about developing a plan to help you stop smoking.

Eat a heart-healthy diet.

Add supplements to your diet.
Certain supplementsmay help improve your cholesterol levels if changing your diet isn’t enough. Some examples include:

Heart Disease, Cholesterol