Cholesterol Concerns

Keeping Cholesterol in Check

There are different kinds of cholesterol - one type is LDL ("bad" cholesterol) and another is HDL ("good" cholesterol). Cholesterol is a necessary part of the body, but too much cholesterol in the blood can clog arteries and prevent blood from flowing freely. Worse, the clog can break loose and may cause a heart attack or stroke.

The American Heart Association approves the following as guidelines for evaluating risk levels:

Individuals with total cholesterol of less than 200 mg/dL and HDL 40 Mg/dL or higher have low risk for heart attack if they continue to eat well and stay active.

Those with total cholesterol levels of 200 to 239 and HDL 40 mg/dL or higher and other risk factors should work with their doctor to control the other risk factors. The doctor will recommend how often cholesterol levels checks should be made. These people should consider modifying their diets and increasing physical activity.

Cholesterol levels of 240 and above are considered high. Individuals should work with their doctors to control their cholesterol levels and lessens other health risks. If lifestyle and diet changes don't lower cholesterol levels, the doctor may recommend medication to help.

People with high cholesterol have twice the risk of heart attacks and stroke as those with cholesterol levels of 200 mg/dL.

A Checklist for Reducing Risks from High Cholesterol

  • Have your cholesterol levels checked regularly. Follow doctor's recommendations for reducing it, if it's high.
  • Start and continue an exercise program with 30-60 minutes of vigorous activity at least 3 or 4 days a week.
  • Maintain a healthy weight; lose weight if needed.
  • Choose a wide variety of foods that are low in saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium. Follow the recommended servings of the five food groups in the Food Guide Pyramid at USDA's website.
  • Limit alcohol intake.     
  • Don't smoke and avoid "second hand" smoke.
  • Have your blood pressure checked regularly, and take steps to lower it if it's high.
  • If you have diabetes, follow doctor's recommendations for treatment.
  • Learn to read food labels
  • Keep a diary of your diet and exercise efforts - and successes.
  • Become an active participant in making treatment decisions and in solving problems relating to your health.

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