Cholesterol is a soft, waxy substance tasked with carrying digested fat from your liver to other body parts that require fat for healing and energy. It also brings fat to your body’s “fat storage sites”. Cholesterol travels within your blood in “packets” of lipoproteins, or protein outside and fat inside. These lipoproteins exist in the following two forms:
- High-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, often labeled “good cholesterol. This carries cholesterol to your liver to be processed. The more HDL cholesterol in your body, the less chance you are diagnosed with heart disease.
- Low-density lipoprotein (LDL), usually labeled “bad cholesterol”. Too much of this builds deposits in your arteries and may cause heart disease.
High blood cholesterol itself does not cause any symptoms, leaving many unaware of the cardiac risk of their health. If you are 20 years old or older, be sure to get your cholesterol levels checked every 5 years.
Causes and prevention
High cholesterol is caused by genetics and diet. Though you can’t change your genes, you can prevent high cholesterol by:
- Eating more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains
- Eating unsaturated fats found in nuts, salmon, tuna, soy, olive oil, vegetable oils, avocados
- Avoiding saturated fats found in dairy products like butter and cream cheese, fried foods, and high-fat meat, pork, and poultry
- Exercising regularly
Diagnosis and treatment
Healthcare providers assess cholesterol with a simple blood test. If diagnosed, this condition is usually treated with medication, but should always be supplemented by a healthy lifestyle.