Cholesterol is the waxy or fatty substance found in our cells that, depending on the type, can either help or hurt us in the fight against heart disease. The first thing that we need to do is know our numbers. Get your cholesterol levels checked by a doctor or other qualified health professional. The results will show the levels of total cholesterol in the blood, broken down into three types:
- LDL — This is sometimes called “bad” cholesterol, as it can lead to a buildup of plaque in the arteries; think the Lower, the better.
- HDL — Also known as the “good” cholesterol, as it helps to remove excess cholesterol from the body; think the Higher, the better.
- Triglycerides — This isn’t cholesterol, but rather another type of fat found in the blood that, in high numbers, can increase the risk of heart disease.
Already know your numbers? Check out the American Heart Association’s Check. Change. Control.Calculator.
Then discuss with your doctor what you can do to take or maintain control of your cholesterol levels. This could include:
- Eating: Reducing the amount of saturated fat in our diets can help reduce cholesterol levels.
- Losing: Not being at a healthy weight can increase cholesterol levels, leading to an increased risk of heart disease.
- Moving: Increased exercise can increase the “good” HDL cholesterol levels while decreasing the “bad” LDL levels. It can also lead to weight loss.
- Quitting: Tobacco products can increase “bad” LDL cholesterol levels while decreasing “good” HDL levels.