Did you know that cholesterol is a normal and healthy part of our cells…in moderation. Cholesterol helps form our cell membranes, and synthesize certain vitamins and hormones. As with anything, however, too much is never a good idea. Besides the cholesterol that we naturally make, we get more from the fats that we eat.
There are a few different types of cholesterol. HDL cholesterol is “good” cholesterol, and helps support your body’s functions while not raising your risk of cardiovascular disease. LDL, or “bad” cholesterol, raises your risk of cardiovascular disease. When you do a blood test they will also measure total cholesterol.
What are the good numbers? You want your total cholesterol to be under 200mg/dL. Your HDL should be 60mg/dL or higher. Your LDL should be less than 100.
Saturated fats, like those in coconut oil, red meats, and dairy, can raise your LDL and lower your HDL in large quantities. Unsaturated fats, especially polyunsaturated fatty acids, do the opposite. They can be found in avocados, nuts, and some oils such as olive oil. Trans fats are never good for you, and should be avoided entirely. They have been found to be a major cause of cardiovascular disease. They can still be found in some processed baked goods.
There are two major causes of high cholesterol: poor diet and sedentary lifestyle, and genetics. The best way to know what your risk is? Have your blood checked. If your cholesterol is high, there are some things you can do to lower your risk.
- Get some exercise. Find a fun way to get your steps, or take a class at the YMCA!
- Find a way to get more unsaturated fats in your diet, and lower your saturated fat intake. Avocados, lean meats, and olive oil are easy and yummy switches!
- If you have genetically high cholesterol, and lifestyle changes don’t help, your doctor may prescribe medication to help.
By making small changes, you can make big changes in your risk of heart disease.