Cholesterol is a soft, waxy substance that carries digested fat from your liver to parts of your body that need fat for energy and healing. Cholesterol also carries fat to "fat storage sites: in your body. Cholesterol travels in the blood in "packets: of lipoproteins (protein on the outside and fat on the inside). The lipoproteins are in two major forms:
- High-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, sometimes called "good cholesterol.: These "packets: carry cholesterol to your liver for processing. More HDL cholesterol means a lower chance of heart disease.
- Low-density lipoprotein (LDL), sometimes called "bad cholesterol.: Too much LDL cholesterol can build up deposits in your arteries, which can lead to heart disease.
"High cholesterol: means an HDL level that is too low and/or an LDL level or total blood cholesterol that are too high. By itself, high blood cholesterol doesn't cause any symptoms. This means many people are unaware they have this cardiac risk factor. If you are over the age of 20, you should have your cholesterol levels checked at least once every 5 years.
Causes and prevention
High cholesterol can be caused by genetic factors (it can run in families) and by diet. You can't change your family's genes, but you can help prevent high cholesterol by:
- Eating more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains
- Choosing unsaturated fats, found in nuts, salmon, tuna, soy, olive oil, vegetable oils, avocados
- Avoiding saturated fats, found in dairy products like butter and cream cheese, fried foods, and high-fat meat, pork, and poultry
- Exercising regularly
Diagnosis and treatment
A simple blood test is used to diagnose high blood cholesterol. This condition is often treated using medication, but healthy eating and an active lifestyle are also important ways to change one's cholesterol levels.