Cholesterol is a fat-like, waxy substance that can be found in all parts of your body. It helps your body make cell membranes, many hormones, and vitamin D. The cholesterol in your blood comes from two sources: the foods you eat and your liver. Your liver makes all the cholesterol your body needs.
Cholesterol and other fats are carried in your bloodstream as spherical particles called lipoproteins. The two most commonly known lipoproteins are low-density lipoproteins (LDL) and high-density lipoproteins (HDL).
What is LDL (Low Density Lipoprotein) Cholesterol?
LDL (‘bad”) cholesterol is a type of fat in the blood that contains the most cholesterol. It can contribute to the formation of plaque buildup in the arteries (atherosclerosis). This is linked to higher risk for heart attack and stroke.
You want your LDL to be low. To help lower it:
- Avoid foods high in saturated fat, dietary cholesterol, and extra calories
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Stop smoking
What is HDL (High Density Lipoprotein) Cholesterol?
HDL (“good”) cholesterol, helps to remove cholesterol from the blood. This keeps plaque from building up in your arteries.
You want your HDL to be as high as possible. Some people can raise HDL by:
- Exercising for at least 30 minutes 5 times a week
- Quitting smoking
- Not eating saturated fats
- Losing weight
Others may need medicine. Because raising HDL is complicated, you should work with your healthcare provider on a treatment plan.
Checking your blood cholesterol level
A cholesterol screening is an overall look at the fats in your blood. Screenings help find people at risk for heart disease. It is important to have what is called a full lipid profile to show the actual levels of each type of fat in your blood: LDL, HDL, triglycerides, and others. Talk with your healthcare provider about when to have this test.