5 Questions: Healthy Choices
Q: How widespread is the problem of high cholesterol?
A: More than 98 million Americans 20 and older have high blood cholesterol — one of the most controllable risk factors for heart disease and stroke, according to the American Heart Association.
Q: What are the symptoms?
A: High cholesterol doesn’t always have symptoms. So it’s important to have your doctor check your cholesterol levels starting at least by age 20, and earlier if you have a family history of heart disease.
Q: Isn’t some cholesterol good for you?
A: The two types of cholesterol are high-density lipoprotein, or HDL (“good” cholesterol), and low-density lipoprotein, or LDL (“bad” cholesterol). Too much bad cholesterol or not enough good cholesterol can increase your risk for heart disease or stroke. The ideal cholesterol level for most people is less than 200 mg/dL.
Q: What factors play into cholesterol levels?
A: Your liver and other cells in your body make about 75 percent of blood cholesterol. LDL cholesterol is produced naturally by the body, but many people inherit genes from their mother, father or grandparents that cause them to make too much. The other 25 percent comes from the foods you eat.
Q: Is there anything I can do to control my cholesterol level?
A: The kinds and amounts of foods you eat, weight, physical activity and exposure to tobacco may affect your cholesterol and triglyceride levels. These factors may be controlled by:
• Eating a heart-healthy dietary pattern.
• Engaging in physical activity.
• Controlling your blood pressure.
• Maintaining a healthy weight.
• Not smoking and avoiding being around others who do.