Everyone’s blood contains cholesterol. This waxy, fatlike substance is necessary for your body’s cells. You need a small amount of cholesterol to make certain hormones as well as cell membranes and other tissues. The troubles come when there is too much cholesterol in your blood, because that’s major risk for heart disease. In turn, the accumulation of plague inside the artries in the heart can lead to blocked vessels and a heart attack.
Your body gets cholesterol in two ways. Your liver makes some of it – in fact, enough to meet your body’s needs. The rest comes from animal products that you eat, such as meat, poultry, fish, eggs, butter, cheese and whole milk. Foods from plants do not contain cholesterol.
Remember that saturated fat raises your blood cholesterol and LDL cholesterol (the body cholesterol) more than anything else in the food you eat.
YOUR CHOLESTEROL LEVELS
If you have a high total cholesterol, you will want to know three numbers: your total cholesterol level, your LDL cholesterol level and your HDL cholesterol level. Have your doctor measure these levels regularly to make sure they are in safe range. If they are not, work with your doctor, nurse or dietian to reduce your total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels and raise your HDL cholesterol levels. Check your blood cholesterol levels here:
Desirable less than 200mgldl
Borderline high risk: 200 to 239mgldl
High risk: 240mgldl or higher
If your cholesterol level is in the desirable range (less thatn 200mgldl) your risk of heart attack is relatively low unless you have other risk factors. Even so, it’s still smart to eat foods low in saturated fat and cholesterol and get plenty of physical activity. Have your cholesterol levels measured every 5 years, but if you are a man older than 45 or a woman older than 55, every 2 years.
YOUR LDL CHOLESTEROL LEVEL
The lower your LDL cholesterol, the lower your risk of heart attack and stroke. Your LDL cholesterol is an even better guage of risk than your total blood cholesterol. When you have your LDL cholesterol checked it will fall into one of these categories:
Desirable : less than 130mgldl
Borderline high risk : 130 to 159mgldl
High risk : 160mgldl or higher.
If your LDL cholesterol is too high, your doctor will likely recommend an eating plan low in saturated fat and cholesterol, regular exercise, and weight loss if you are overweight. If these don’t lower your LDL cholesterol, your doctor can also prescribe medications to help reduce it.
YOUR HDL CHOLESTEROL LEVEL
In the average man, HDL cholesterol levels range from 40 to 50mg/dl. In the average woman, they range form 50 to 60 mg/dl. An HDL cholesterol level less than 40mg/dl puts you at a high risk for heart disease. Smoking, being overweight and having a sedentary lifestyle can all contribute to low HDL cholesterol. If you have low HDL cholesterol you can help raise it by:
Not smoking, maintaining a healthy weight.
Being physically active for 30 to 60 minutes a day 3 or 4 days a week, avoiding anobolic steroids and male sex hormones (testosterone), which lower HDL cholesterol levels. Estrogen and other female sex hormones raise HDL cholesterol levels – source American heart association.