Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance found in the blood that plays an important role in many bodily functions, including the production of hormones and the building of cell membranes. However, when levels of cholesterol become too high, it can lead to a number of serious health problems, including heart disease and stroke. Understanding cholesterol levels and how to maintain them is essential for maintaining good health.
There are two main types of cholesterol: low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and high-density lipoprotein (HDL). LDL is often referred to as “bad” cholesterol because it can build up in the blood vessels, leading to a blockage and increasing the risk of heart disease. HDL is often referred to as “good” cholesterol because it helps to remove LDL from the blood vessels.
A cholesterol test, also known as a lipid panel or lipid profile, is used to measure the levels of LDL, HDL, and total cholesterol in the blood. The results of this test are usually given in milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL). According to the American Heart Association, normal levels of total cholesterol are below 200 mg/dL, while ideal levels are below 150 mg/dL. The ideal level of LDL is below 100 mg/dL, and the ideal level of HDL is above 60 mg/dL.
There are a number of lifestyle changes that can be made to help maintain healthy cholesterol levels. These include:
- Eating a healthy diet: Eating a diet that is high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein can help to lower cholesterol levels. It’s also important to limit foods that are high in saturated fats, such as butter, cheese, and red meat. Incorporating more plant-based foods, nuts and seeds, fish and seafood, and healthy fats like olive oil and avocado in your diet can help lower cholesterol levels.
- Getting regular exercise: Regular physical activity can help to lower LDL cholesterol and increase HDL cholesterol. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise on most days of the week. Exercise not only helps to lower cholesterol levels, but also helps to maintain a healthy weight, which is another important factor in cholesterol management.
- Maintaining a healthy weight: Being overweight or obese can increase the risk of high cholesterol. Losing weight can help to lower cholesterol levels.
- Quitting smoking: Smoking can increase the risk of high cholesterol, so quitting smoking can help to lower cholesterol levels.