Is your blood cholesterol level too high? If it is, you could be heading for a heart attack or stroke without knowing it. This is especially true if you have other risk factors for heart and vascular disease. Take a few moments to learn about cholesterol and what you can do to lower it.

Types of Cholesterol:

Cholesterol is a waxy substance. Your liver makes all the cholesterol you need. The rest of the cholesterol in your body comes from foods derived from animals such as meat, poultry and full-fat dairy products. The body uses cholesterol to form cell membranes, aid in digestion, convert Vitamin D in the skin and make hormones. Two types of lipoproteins carry cholesterol to and from cells. High density lipoproteins and low-density lipoproteins. Triglycerides are the most common type of fat in the body.

Your total cholesterol is a measurement of these three key components of cholesterol.

1. High density lipoproteins (HDL cholesterol) are called GOOD cholesterol because they remove cholesterol from the bloodstream and the artery walls. A healthy HDL-cholesterol level may protect against heart attack and stroke. Studies show that low levels of HDL cholesterol increase the risk of heart disease.
2. Low density lipoproteins (LDL cholesterol) are considered BAD cholesterol. While they carry needed cholesterol to all parts of the body, too much LDL contributes to fatty buildups in arteries. This narrows the arteries and increases the risk for heart attack, stroke and peripheral artery disease, or PAD.
3. Triglycerides are the most common type of fat in the body. They store excess energy from your diet. A high triglyceride level combined with high LDL (bad) cholesterol or low HDL (good) cholesterol is linked with fatty buildups within the artery walls, which increases the risk of heart attack and stroke.

What should my cholesterol levels be?
The best approach is to look at your overall risk assessment and reduction. It is important to know your numbers and work with your doctor to treat your risk.

  • If you're between 40 and 75, ask your doctor to assess your 10-year risk
  • If you're between 20 and 39, priority would be to get an estimate of your lifetime risk.

Check your risk using the Check. Change. Control. Calculator 

Steps to take to lower cholesterol:

  • Eat less fat- cutting down on saturated fats is one of the first steps to take to lowering cholesterol.
  • Eat more fiber- this can help reduce blood cholesterol. Include plenty of oats, dried beans, brown rice, vegetables, and fruit in your diet.
  • Be active- being active helps raise your "good" cholesterol while helping you lose weight which aids in lowering your "bad" cholesterol
  • Take your medications

How Can I Improve My Cholesterol?