What is cholesterol and how do we manage it?

You can’t help hearing about cholesterol. If you turn on your TV, you’ll see ads for products like Cheerios that promise to lower your cholesterol. If you’re older, you’ve probably discussed it with your doctor or heard family and friends talk about it.

The word is thrown around like everyone should know what it means, but believe it or not, relatively few people really do. So, let’s dive into this topic, and we’ll talk about what cholesterol is, why it’s important to monitor, and how people can improve the cholesterol balance in their body.

What is cholesterol and why should we care?

Put simply, cholesterol is the amount of lipids, or fat, in your bloodstream. It’s easy to see how having too much fat in your blood could lead to problems. Imagine if the gasoline in your car became too thick to properly flow through your engine and clogged up the works.

However, your blood should have some cholesterol, and there are both “good” and “bad” cholesterols.

Bad Cholesterol:

LDL cholesterol is considered “bad” cholesterol. It creates fatty buildings in your arteries, increasing the changes of heart disease and stroke.

Good Cholesterol:

HDL Cholesterol is considered “good” cholesterol. In general, the more you have of it, the better. It helps carry away the “bad” LDL cholesterol from the arteries to the liver, where they’re safely processed.

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Click here to read about good and bad cholesterol from the American Heart Association

How do we manage it?

The best resource for figuring out how to manage your cholesterol is your doctor. They can get a personal understanding of your body and your needs. A doctor will help you determine the best course of action for keeping your cholesterol in healthy form, and can advise you on the success of your efforts.

Generally, lifestyle changes are the way we manage cholesterol and there are three main components:

Diet

Eating a diet low in fats, specifically trans fats and saturated fats is the most important way to manage cholesterol. You are what you eat right? If you’re eating a high-fat diet, it makes sense that your blood would become fattier as well.

In general, I recommend a low-glycemic index diet. This involves monitoring what kind of carbs, sugars, and fats you are intaking. Your body processes different kinds of these nutrients differently. A well-managed glycemic index diet will help prevent cholesterol and heart related issues, but also will prevent diabetes and leave you feeling healthier and more energized.

Click here to read more on my approach to healthy eating

A heart-healthy diet is key. Learning which fats contribute to high cholesterol is important to this.

Click here to read about which fats are important to keep an eye on

Exercise

Keeping your heart pumping and circulating blood through your arteries helps prevent bad cholesterol buildup. Aerobic exercise just a few times a week is enough to make a big difference for your risk of heart disease and stroke.

Having an active lifestyle increases the amount of “good” HDL cholesterol and reduces the amount of “bad” LDL cholesterol in your blood.

I have some great resource on exercise that I’ve written and can share with you.

Check out these links below!

Smoking

Smoking tobacco greatly increases your risk of a heart attack, stroke, and many more serious health problems. If you have high cholesterol, smoking compounds the negative affect, and greatly increases the chances of a life-threating health issue. It’s never too late or too early to quit. There are tons of resources available to help you.

Here’s a great place to start with a ton of resources for smokers

 In addition, I’ve written a bit about smoking in the past.

If you’re interested check it out here

Wrapping it all

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So, we’ve learned that cholesterol is just a measure of the amounts of different fat in your bloodstream. There are both good and bad cholesterol, and both are managed with lifestyle choices. Your doctor is the best first resource for helping to keep your cholesterol at a healthy level. If you have any questions at all, feel free to comment, email, or find me on Facebook, and I’ll gladly share all information I can on this important topic.

Best wishes for a happy, healthy May,

Dr. Johnson