If you don't know your level, ask your doctor to check it. Diet is a key part of lowering high cholesterol levels. However, some people may need to take medicine in addition to diet and exercise.
Cholesterol is a waxy substance found in all parts of the body. When there is too much cholesterol in your blood, cholesterol can build up on the walls of your arteries and cause blood clots. Cholesterol can clog your arteries and keep your heart from getting the blood it needs. This can cause a heart attack.
There are two types of cholesterol:
- Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) is often called the "bad" type of cholesterol because it can clog the arteries that carry blood to your heart. For LDL, lower numbers are better.
- High-density lipoprotein (HDL) is known as "good" cholesterol because it takes the bad cholesterol out of your blood and keeps it from building up in your arteries. For HDL, higher numbers are better.
All women age 20 and older should have their blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels checked at least once every 5 years.
- Total cholesterol level - Lower is better. Less than 200 mg/dL is best.
- LDL (bad) cholesterol - Lower is better. Less than 100 mg/dL is best.
- HDL (good) cholesterol - Higher is better. More than 60 mg/dL is best.
- Triglyceride levels - Lower is better. Less than 150mg/dL is best.
How can I lower my cholesterol?
You can lower your cholesterol by taking these steps:
- Maintain a healthy weight. If you are overweight, losing weight can help lower your total cholesterol and LDL ("bad cholesterol") levels. Calculate your Body Mass Index (BMI) to see if you are at a healthy weight. If not, try making small changes like eating an apple instead of potato chips, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, or parking farther away from the entrance to your office, the grocery store, or the mall. (But be sure to park in a safe, well-lit spot.)
- Eat better. Eat foods low in saturated fats, trans fats, and cholesterol.
- Fish, poultry (chicken, turkey--breast meat or drumstick is best), and lean meats (round, sirloin, loin). Broil, bake, roast, or poach foods. Remove the fat and skin before eating.
- Skim (fat-free) or low-fat (1%) milk and cheeses, and low-fat or nonfat yogurt
- Fruits and vegetables (try for 5 a day)
- Cereals, breads, rice, and pasta made from whole grains (such as "whole-wheat" or "whole-grain" bread and pasta, rye bread, brown rice, and oatmeal)
- Organ meats (liver, kidney, brains)
- Egg yolks
- Fats (butter, lard) and oils
- Packaged and processed foods
There are two diets that may help lower your cholesterol: