One major risk factor for heart disease is high cholesterol. But there are different types of cholesterol and not all of them are bad. Here's how to determine what's good and what's bad – and what you can do to keep your heart healthier and prevent atherosclerosis, a condition in which fatty deposits build up on the walls of your arteries. This can lead to heart attack or stroke.
Answer true or false to each statement to find out how much you know about cholesterol.
The only way to know if you have high cholesterol is through a blood test.
There are no signs or symptoms of high cholesterol. The only way to know what your cholesterol levels are is to have a blood test done. It is recommended that you start getting your cholesterol tested at age 20, or earlier if there is a family history of the condition.
The lower your HDL is, the better.
High-density lipoprotein (HDL) is often referred to as "good" cholesterol. You want this number to be higher rather than lower. A reading over 60 mg/dL has been linked to a reduced risk of heart disease.
The lower your LDL is, the better.
Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) is often referred to as "bad" cholesterol. You want this number to be low rather than high, ideally under 130 mg/dL. High levels of LDL can raise your heart disease risk.
You need to get some cholesterol from your diet.
Your body makes all the cholesterol it needs so you don't need to consume any additional cholesterol in your diet.
You should avoid all fats if you want to keep your cholesterol levels low.
Although it's a good idea to limit saturated fat and avoid trans fats as much as possible, your body needs some fat in your diet. Try to consume mostly monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, as well as omega-3 fatty acids. Some foods that supply healthier fats include nuts, seeds, olive oil, avocados and cold water fish such as salmon or tuna.
You don't have to worry about high cholesterol if you're a woman.
Although men tend to have higher total cholesterol levels than women before age 50, women usually have higher cholesterol than men of the same age after age 50. This is due in part to declining estrogen levels during menopause.
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Date Last Reviewed: July 30, 2019
Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor