What is Cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a substance that’s found in the fats (otherwise known as lipids) in your blood. Although your body needs cholesterol to continue building healthy cells, having high cholesterol can increase your risk of heart disease.
What is High Cholesterol?
Having high cholesterol, can cause you to develop fatty deposits in your blood vessels. Eventually, these deposits can cause difficulties with blood flow through your arteries. Not allowing your heart may not get as much oxygen-rich blood as it needs, which increases the risk of a heart attack. Additionally, decreased blood flow to your brain can cause a stroke.
High cholesterol can be inherited, but is also often the result of unhealthy lifestyle choices, and thus preventable and treatable. A healthy diet, regular exercise and sometimes medication can go a long way toward reducing high cholesterol.
Risk factors for high cholesterol include:
- Lack of exercise. Exercise helps boost your body’s HDL, or “good,” cholesterol while increasing the size of the particles that make up your LDL, or “bad,” cholesterol, which makes it less harmful.
- Obesity. Having a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or greater puts you at risk of high cholesterol.
- Poor diet. Eating saturated fat, found in animal products, and trans fats, found in some commercially baked cookies and crackers, can raise your cholesterol level. Foods that are high in cholesterol, such as red meat and full-fat dairy products, will also increase your total cholesterol.
- Large waist circumference. Your risk increases if you are a man with a waist circumference of at least 40 inches (102 centimeters) or a woman with a waist circumference of at least 35 inches (89 centimeters).
- Smoking. Cigarette smoking damages the walls of your blood vessels, making them likely to accumulate fatty deposits. Smoking may also lower your level of HDL, or “good,” cholesterol.
- Diabetes. High blood sugar contributes to higher LDL cholesterol and lower HDL cholesterol. High blood sugar also damages the lining of your arteries.
Think you may have high cholesterol? Talk to your doctor.