Cholesterol

Cholesterol Quiz

True or False?

 1. Nothing I do can lower my cholesterol.
 
 2. All cholesterol in my blood is bad.
   
 3. Exercise can’t help me control my cholesterol.
  
 4. I don’t have to worry if my cholesterol is just a little high.
   
 5. To lower my cholesterol, I just need to stop eating eggs.

Answers

FALSE. Your eating and exercise habits play a big role in controlling cholesterol. If you smoke, quitting can also help you get cholesterol under control. And your doctor can prescribe medication if you need extra help.

FALSE. Some cholesterol is needed for your body to work. And some types of cholesterol are better for your body than others.

FALSE. Exercise increases the amount of HDL (“good”) cholesterol in your bloodstream. This is good for your body and your health.

FALSE. Even if your cholesterol is just a little high, you are at increased risk for a heart attack or stroke.

FALSE. Egg yolks are high in cholesterol, but all animal products contain cholesterol. Eating foods high in cholesterol or saturated fat can raise your cholesterol level.

About Cholesterol

Cholesterol is a waxy substance that travels in your bloodstream. When you have high cholesterol, it builds up in the walls of your blood vessels. This makes the blood vessels narrower and blood flow decrease. Then you could have a heart attack or a stroke.

Good and Bad Cholesterol

Lipids are fats, and blood is mostly water. Fat and water don’t mix. So we need lipoproteins (lipids packaged in a protein shell) to carry the lipids. The protein shell lets lipoproteins enter the bloodstream, carrying their cargo of lipids. There are two main kinds of lipoproteins:

LDL (low-density lipoprotein) is known as “bad cholesterol.” Its cargo is mainly cholesterol. It delivers this cholesterol to body cells. If there’s too much LDL cholesterol, it can build up in artery walls. This increases your risk of heart disease and stroke.

HDL (high-density lipoprotein) is known as “good cholesterol.” It consists mostly of a protein shell. This lipoprotein collects excess cholesterol that LDLs have left behind on blood vessel walls. That’s why high levels of HDL cholesterol can decrease your risk of heart disease and stroke.

Total cholesterol includes LDL and HDL cholesterol, as well as other fats in the bloodstream.

Triglyceride is a type of fat the body uses to store energy. Too much triglyceride can increase your risk for heart disease. Triglyceride levels should be under 150.

Causes

A variety of things can affect the cholesterol levels in your blood. Some of these things you can control and others you cannot.

You can control:

  • What you eat. Certain foods have types of fat that raise your cholesterol level.
    Saturated fat raises your low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol level more than anything else in your diet.
    Trans fatty acids (trans fats) are made when vegetable oil is hydrogenated to harden it. Trans fatty acids also raise cholesterol levels.Cholesterol is found in foods that come from animal sources, for example, egg yolks, meat, and cheese.
  • Your weight. Being overweight tends to increase your LDL level, lower your high-density lipoprotein (HDL) level, and increase your total cholesterol level.
  • Your activity. Lack of regular exercise can lead to weight gain, which could raise your LDL cholesterol level. Regular exercise can help you lose weight and lower your LDL level. It can also help you raise your HDL level.

You cannot control:

  • Heredity. High blood cholesterol can run in families. An inherited genetic condition (familial hypercholesterolemia) results in very high LDL cholesterol levels. It begins at birth, and may result in a heart attack at an early age.
  • Age and sex. Starting at puberty, men have lower levels of HDL than women. As women and men get older, their LDL cholesterol levels rise. Younger women have lower LDL cholesterol levels than men, but after age 55, women have higher levels than men.  

What should my cholesterol be?

Click here for recommended guidelines.

Tips to help lower your cholesterol:

Eat Less Fat

A healthy goal is to have less than 25% of your daily calories come from fat. Instead of fats, eat more fruits, grains, and vegetables. This also helps control your weight, and can even reduce your risk for some cancers. There are different kinds of fats in foods. Fats can be saturated, unsaturated, or trans fats. The best fats to choose are unsaturated fats. But fats are high in calories, so eat even unsaturated fats sparingly.

Limit Foods High in Saturated Fats

Saturated fats come from animals and certain plants (such as coconut and palm). Eating too much saturated fat can raise your blood cholesterol levels and make your artery problems worse. Your goal is to eat less saturated fat. Below are some examples of foods that contain lots of saturated fat:

  • Fatty cuts of meat (lamb, ham, beef)
  • Many pastries, cakes, cookies, and candies
  • Cream, ice cream, sour cream, cheese, and butter, and foods made with them
  • Sauces made with butter or cream
  • Salad dressings with saturated fats
  • Foods that contain palm or coconut oil
Choose Unsaturated Fats

Unsaturated fats are usually liquid at room temperature. They are better choices for your heart than saturated fat. There are two types of unsaturated fats: polyunsaturated fat and monounsaturated fat. Aim to replace saturated fats with polyunsaturated or monounsaturated fats.

Polyunsaturated fats are found in corn oil, safflower oil, sunflower oil, and other vegetable oils.

Monounsaturated fats are found in olive oil, canola oil, and peanut oil. Some margarines and spreads are now made with these oils, too. Of all fats, monounsaturated fats are the least harmful to your heart.

Avoid Trans Fats

Like saturated fats, trans fats have been linked to heart disease. Even a small amount can harm your health. Trans fats are found in liquid oils that have been changed to be solid at room temperature. Margarine, which is often made from vegetable oil, is one example. Vegetable shortening is another. Trans fats are often found in packaged goods. Check ingredients for the words “hydrogenated” or “partially hydrogenated.” They mean the foods contain trans fat.

Eat Less Cholesterol

You can’t see cholesterol. You have to read food labels to check the cholesterol in the foods you eat. Avoid or limit these high-cholesterol foods:

  • Liver and other organ meats
  • Fatty red meats
  • Bacon and sausage
  • Egg yolks (egg whites are okay)
  • Shrimp
  • Cold cuts
  • Cookies, donuts, muffins, and pastries
  • Fried foods
  • Shortening, butter, coconut oil, palm oil, hydrogenated oils
  • High-fat dairy products, such as whole milk, cheese and ice cream
Use Fiber to Help Control Cholesterol

Foods high in fiber can help you keep your cholesterol down. Good sources of fiber are:

  • Oats, barley
  • Whole grains
  • Beans
  • Vegetables
  • Cornmeal, popcorn
  • Berries, apples, other fruits

Links and Downloads

10 Year Risk Calculator (National Cholesterol Education Program)
Live Healthier, Live Longer (National Cholesterol Education Program)
Cholesterol Education Month Kit (National Cholesterol Education Program)


   High Blood Cholesterol - What You Need to Know (from the National Cholesterol Education Program)

 

 

 

 

© 2005 The StayWell Company, 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your health care provider's instructions.