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What is cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a type of fat. It has both good and bad effects on the body. Your body uses cholesterol to make hormones and to build and maintain nerve cells. However, when your body has too much cholesterol, deposits of fat called plaque form inside blood vessel walls. The blood vessel walls thicken and the vessels become narrower (a condition called atherosclerosis). This change in the blood vessels reduces blood flow through the blood vessels, possibly leading to heart attack or strokes. Your liver makes most of the cholesterol in your blood from the fats, carbohydrates and proteins you eat. You also get cholesterol by eating animal products such as meat, eggs and dairy products.
How is cholesterol measured?
When you get your cholesterol checked, your health care provider will give you a number for your total cholesterol level. See below:
- Less than 180: Good
- 181 to 239: Borderline
- 240 or above: High
When your cholesterol is measured and found to be high, your health care provider may also check the amount of LDL (low-density lipoproteins) and HDL (high-density lipoproteins) in your blood. LDL and HDL carry cholesterol through your blood. LDLs carry a lot of cholesterol, leave behind fatty deposits on your artery walls, and contribute to heart disease. HDLs do the opposite. They clean the artery walls and remove extra cholesterol from the body, thus lowering the risk of heart disease. LDL is called “bad” cholesterol HDL is called the “good” cholesterol. It is good to have low levels of LDL and high levels of HDL.
The recommended levels of LDL are shown below:
- Less than 130: For most people
- Less than 100: For those at greater risk of heart disease
- Less than 70: For those with heart disease and Diabetes
- Get regular exercise.
- Do not smoke. Smoking increases your risk of heart disease because it lowers HDL levels.
- High cholesterol runs in families. Know your family history.
- Eat healthy
- Check your cholesterol yearly.