What is cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance your body needs. But when you have too much in your blood, it can build up on the walls of your arteries and form blockages. This can lead to heart disease, heart attack, and stroke.
There are two kinds of cholesterol: high-density lipoprotein (HDL) and low-density lipoprotein (LDL). HDL is also called "good" cholesterol. LDL is called "bad" cholesterol. When we talk about high cholesterol, we are talking about "bad" LDL cholesterol.
Seventy-one million American adults have high cholesterol, but only one-third of them have the condition under control.1 September is National Cholesterol Education Month—a good time to resolve to get your cholesterol screened.
Screening is the key to detecting high cholesterol. Because high cholesterol does not have symptoms, many people do not know their cholesterol is too high. Your doctor can do a simple blood test to check your cholesterol level.
The National Cholesterol Education Program recommends that adults aged 20 years or older have their cholesterol checked every 5 years.
You may need to have your cholesterol checked more often if any of the following statements applies to you:
· Your total cholesterol is 200 mg/dL or higher.
· You are a man older than age 45 or a woman older than age 50.
· Your HDL cholesterol is lower than 40 mg/dL.
· You have other risk factors for heart disease and stroke.
The Healthy People 2020 objective is to have 82% of the population screened. The number of people who said they were screened for cholesterol between 2005-2009 increased from 73% to 76%, only a handful of states met the 82% Healthy People 2020 objective.
Prevention and Treatment of High Cholesterol
Make lifestyle changes by:
· Eating a healthy diet. Avoid saturated fats and trans fats, which tend to raise cholesterol levels. Other types of fats, such as polyunsaturated fats, can lower blood cholesterol levels. Eating fiber also can help lower cholesterol.
· Exercising regularly. Physical activity can help lower cholesterol. The Surgeon General recommends that adults engage in moderate-intensity exercise for 2 hours and 30 minutes every week.
· Maintaining a healthy weight. Being overweight or obese can raise your cholesterol levels. Losing weight can help lower your cholesterol.
· Not smoking. If you smoke, quit as soon as possible.
Be sure to follow your doctor's instructions and stay on your medications, if prescribed, to control your cholesterol.
2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines
Answers to Your Questions
Do I still need to watch my cholesterol intake?
While adequate evidence is not available for a quantitative limit for dietary cholesterol in the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines, cholesterol is still important to consider when building a healthy eating style. In fact, the Dietary Guidelines states that people should eat as little dietary cholesterol as possible.
In general, foods that are higher in dietary cholesterol, such as fatty meats and high-fat dairy products, are also higher in saturated fats (which should be limited to 10% of total calories per day). The primary healthy eating style described in the Dietary Guidelines is limited in saturated fats, and thus, dietary cholesterol (about 100-300 mg across the various calorie levels).
For more information about cholesterol and how you can prevent high cholesterol or keep it in check, see "Your Guide to Lowering Your Cholesterol with TLC" from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.
CDC, National Cholesterol Education Month
2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines