The art of caring for your heart (sm)

How can cholesterol affect your health?

Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance in your blood. You get cholesterol from two sources:

  • Your liver produces cholesterol, since your body needs a certain amount to function properly. In fact, your body typically makes all of the cholesterol you need.
  • You get cholesterol through foods such as red meats, egg yolks, and whole-milk dairy products.

There are two types of cholesterol:

  • LDL or low-density lipoprotein (bad cholesterol)
  • HDL or high-density lipoprotein (good cholesterol)

Most people consume much more cholesterol than they need. So some of the excess cholesterol in the blood can build up in your blood vessels and form plaque. Enough plaque can lead to atherosclerosis which can, over time, clog your arteries. It can also lead to a higher risk of:

  • Coronary artery disease (CAD)
  • Chest pain (angina)
  • Heart attack
  • Stroke

What you can do

To some degree, your cholesterol level may be hereditary. But even if you might have inherited a risk for high cholesterol, it's possible to make a significant impact on your cholesterol if you:

  • Lower the amount of fatty and processed food you eat -at home, in restaurants, and at fast-food chains.
  • Exercise regularly -this lowers LDL and raises HDL
  • Maintain a healthy weight -losing weight improves both LDL and HDL
  • Quit smoking -quitting can raise levels of HDL (good cholesterol)

Please check with your doctor or nurse before starting a diet or exercise program.