- Cholesterol is a substance with numerous important functions in the body.
However, if the levels of cholesterol in your blood are unhealthy, it can
cause life-threatening problems.
- Excess cholesterol builds up on the inner walls of arteries throughout
the body, forming scar tissue and plaque. The plaque deposits harden and
narrow the wall of the artery, reducing or stopping blood flow. This can
cause a heart attack, stroke, or other cardiovascular problem.
- Everyone should have their blood cholesterol levels tested at least every
- A blood cholesterol test looks at the level of four things: total cholesterol,
HDL ("good") cholesterol, LDL ("bad") cholesterol, and triglycerides.
- Here's a simple rule to remember: you want HDL to be HIGH, and you want
LDL to be LOW.
- Your LDL level is what doctors watch most carefully. If it gets
too high, it will need to be treated. Treatment includes eating better, losing
weight, and exercising more. You may also need medication.
- People who do not have heart disease, or who have average cholesterol levels,
still need to eat right, maintain a healthy weight, and exercise. These steps
help PREVENT future heart attacks and other complications for EVERYONE. Even
for people with average cholesterol levels, lowering LDL further may reduce
the risk of future heart attacks.
- Choose lean, protein-rich foods -- soy, fish, skinless chicken, very
lean meat, and fat free or 1% dairy products.
- Eat foods that are naturally low in fat -- like whole grains, fruits,
- Get plenty of soluble fiber -- with oats, bran, dry peas, beans, cereal,
- Limit your consumption of fried foods, processed foods, and commercially
prepared baked goods (donuts, cookies, crackers).
- Limit animal products, such as egg yolks, cheeses, whole milk, cream, ice
cream, and fatty meats (and large portions of meats).
- Look at food labels, especially for the level of saturated fat. Avoid or
limit foods high in saturated fat (more than 20% on the label).
- Look on food labels for words like "hydrogenated" or "partially hydrogenated" --
these foods are loaded with saturated fats and trans-fatty acids and should
Review Date: 10/31/2006
Reviewed By: Alan Greene, M.D., F.A.A.P., Department of Pediatrics, Packard Children's Hospital, Stanford University School of Medicine; Chief Medical Officer, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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