Cholesterol is a fat (also called a lipid) that your body needs to work properly. Too much bad cholesterol can increase your chance of getting heart disease, stroke, and other problems.
The medical term for high blood cholesterol is lipid disorder, hyperlipidemia, or hypercholesterolemia.
There are many types of cholesterol. The ones talked about most are:
- Total cholesterol - all the cholesterols combined
- High density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol - often called "good" cholesterol
- Low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol - often called "bad" cholesterol
For many people, abnormal cholesterol levels are partly due to an unhealthy lifestyle. This often includes eating a diet that is high in fat. Other lifestyle factors are:
- Being overweight
- Lack of exercise
Exams and Tests:
It is important to work with your health care provider to set your cholesterol goals. General targets are:
- LDL: 70-130 mg/dL (lower numbers are better)
- HDL: more than 50 mg/dL (high numbers are better)
- Total cholesterol: less than 200 mg/dL (lower numbers are better)
- Triglycerides: 10-150 mg/dL (lower numbers are better)
Steps you can take to improve their cholesterol levels, and help prevent heart disease and a heart attack include:
- Quit smoking. This is the single biggest change you can make to reduce your risk of heart attack and stroke.Eat foods that are naturally low in fat. These include whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.
- Use low-fat toppings, sauces, and dressings.
- Avoid foods that are high in saturated fat.
- Exercise regularly.
- Lose weight if you are overweight.
Children and cholesterol testing
Children as young as age 2 can have high cholesterol, but not all children need to be screened for high cholesterol. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends a cholesterol test (fasting lipid panel) for all children between the ages of 9 and 11. The AAP also recommends screening for children as young as 1 who have a known family history of high cholesterol or premature coronary artery disease. Your child's doctor may recommend retesting if your child's first test shows he or she has normal cholesterol levels.
The same heart-healthy lifestyle changes that can lower your cholesterol can help prevent you from having high cholesterol in the first place. To help prevent high cholesterol, you can:
- Lose extra pounds and maintain a healthy weight.
- Quit smoking.
- Eat a low-fat, low-salt diet that includes many fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
- Exercise on most days of the week for at least 30 minutes.
- Drink alcohol in moderation, if at all.
Lifestyle and home remedies:
- First: Lose extra pounds - Excess weight contributes to high cholesterol. Losing even 5 to 10 pounds can help lower total cholesterol levels.
- Second: Eat heart-healthy foods - In fact, a diet rich in fiber and other cholesterol-lowering foods may help lower cholesterol as much as statin medication for some people.
- Third: Exercise regularly - Regular exercise can help improve your cholesterol levels. With your doctor's OK, work up to 30 to 60 minutes of exercise a day.
- Forth: Don't smoke - If you smoke, stop. Quitting can improve your HDL cholesterol level. And the benefits don't end there. Just 20 minutes after quitting, your blood pressure decreases.