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Know your cholesterol numbers, know your risk

"Know Your Cholesterol Numbers, Know Your Risk" is the 2005 theme of National Cholesterol Education Month. This theme emphasizes two of the main thrusts of the cholesterol guidelines: the importance of having your cholesterol measured and knowing your risk of developing heart disease. September, National Cholesterol Education Month, is a good time to learn more about cholesterol and how it affects you and your health.

Cholesterol is a waxy substance that can collect in your blood vessels. Too much cholesterol in your blood increases your risk of heart disease. In fact, high blood cholesterol is one of the main risk factors for heart disease, the number one killer in the U.S. today.

What affects cholesterol levels? A variety of things can affect cholesterol levels. These are things you can do something about: diet, weight, and physical activity.

Diet - Saturated fat and cholesterol in the foods you eat make your blood cholesterol level go up. Significant amounts are found in animal foods: red meat, poultry, shell fish and dairy products. Coconut oil, palm, palm kernel and hydrogenated vegetable oils are also high in saturated fat. These fats are usually solid at room temperature. Saturated fat is the main culprit, but cholesterol in foods also matters. Reducing the amount of saturated fat and cholesterol in your diet helps lower your blood cholesterol level.

A cholesterol-lowering diet will help you reach and keep a weight that is right for you. The diet needs to be low in fat. Only 30 percent of your total calories should come from fat.

Weight - Being overweight is a risk factor for heart disease. It also tends to increase your cholesterol. Losing weight can help lower your LDL or bad cholesterol and total cholesterol levels, as well as raise your HDL or good cholesterol and lower your triglyceride levels.

Physical activity - Not being physically active is a risk factor for heart disease. Regular physical activity can help lower LDL cholesterol and raise HDL cholesterol levels. It also helps you lose weight. You should try to be physically active for 30 minutes on most, if not all days.

Things you cannot do anything about also can affect cholesterol levels. These include: age, gender and heredity.

Age and gender. As women and men get older, their cholesterol levels rise. Before the age of menopause, women have lower total cholesterol levels than men of the same age. After the age of menopause, women's LDL levels tend to rise.

Heredity. Your genes partly determine how much cholesterol your body makes. High blood cholesterol can run in families.

Web posted on Thursday, September 8, 2005


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