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Learning About High Cholesterol

What is high cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a type of fat in your blood. It is needed for many body functions, such as making new cells.

Cholesterol is made by your body. It also comes from food you eat.

There are different types of cholesterol.

One type is LDL. This is the "bad" type. It builds up inside the blood vessel walls and makes them too narrow. This reduces the flow of blood and can cause a heart attack or stroke.

Another type is HDL. This is the "good" type. It helps clear bad cholesterol from the body.

You want your H DL cholesterol to be h igh and your L DL cholesterol to be l ow. If you do this, you can reduce your chances of a heart attack or a stroke.

High cholesterol has no symptoms. You may first find out that you have it when you are diagnosed with a problem caused by high cholesterol, such as a heart problem.

How can you prevent high cholesterol?

  • Eat heart-healthy foods.
    • Eat fruits, vegetables, whole grains (like oatmeal), dried beans and peas, nuts and seeds, soy products (like tofu), and fat-free or low-fat dairy products.
    • Replace butter, margarine, and hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils with olive and canola oils. (Canola oil margarine without trans fat is fine.)
    • Replace red meat with fish, poultry, and soy protein (like tofu).
    • Limit processed and packaged foods like chips, crackers, and cookies.
  • Be active. Exercise can improve your cholesterol level. Get at least 2½ hours of exercise a week. Walking is a good choice. You also may want to do other activities, such as running, swimming, cycling, or playing tennis or team sports.
  • Stay at a healthy weight.
  • Don't smoke. Quitting smoking can help raise your good cholesterol. If you need help quitting, talk to your doctor about stop-smoking programs and medicines. These can increase your chances of quitting for good.

How is high cholesterol treated?

  • Your doctor will suggest some lifestyle changes. For example, your doctor may ask you to eat healthy foods, quit smoking, lose weight, and be more active.
  • You may have to take medicine.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

Where can you learn more?

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