Blood cholesterol is needed for good health like making hormones and helping your body digest food correctly. But too much cholesterol can increase your risk of heart disease, heart attacks, and strokes. Cholesterol is made naturally by your liver and your body actually makes all the cholesterol it needs on its own. Consuming cholesterol from food is not needed in order to keep your body healthy.
What's my risk?
Certain health conditions increase your risk of high cholesterol such as type 2 diabetes, increased body weight, and inherited disorders known as familial hypercholesterolemia. Eating a diet high in saturated and trans-fat, not getting enough exercise, and smoking all increase the chance of having high cholesterol.
It’s important to let your health care provider know if someone in your family had a heart attack or stroke, especially early in life. Family medical history is important to understand health risks and prevent disease. Your high cholesterol risk increases when a family history of high cholesterol is combined with eating an unhealthy diet.
As we get older, our risk for high cholesterol goes up. As we age, our bodies can’t clear cholesterol from the blood as well as when we were younger. Women are more likely to be protected from high cholesterol until menopause.
The good...the bad...and the what?
- When you get your cholesterol checked, usually a few types of cholesterol-like substances are evaluated.
- The first is called your total cholesterol which is pretty self-explanatory –this is a combination of the different types of cholesterol molecules in your blood.
- High-density lipoprotein (HDL) is known as “good cholesterol” and higher numbers can actually protect against heart disease. This number is primarily raised through increased physical activity and exercise.
- Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) is known as “bad cholesterol” and we want this number to be lower. It usually increases with a high fat diet and increased weight gain.
- Triglycerides are a different type of fat that your body uses for energy. Often too much alcohol or high blood sugar can contribute to high triglycerides.
What can I do?
Here are some tips to help you take control of your cholesterol:
- Choose foods low in saturated and trans-fats such as chicken, turkey, seafood, fat-free or low-fat dairy products, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. Foods with more saturated fat may have more cholesterol.
- Eat foods which are naturally high in fiber like oatmeal and beans. Foods with unsaturated fats (avocado, olive oil, nuts) can help increase HDL (good) cholesterol while decreasing LDL (bad) cholesterol and triglycerides.
- Maintain a healthy weight and get plenty of exercise. Aim for 150 minutes per week of physical activity (including walking and biking). We know the BMI scale is not perfect! At UHS, we value your health over the size of your body.
- Quit smoking, or don’t start! Schedule an appointment at UHS to discuss ways to quit smoking or check out The Freshstart® Program offered by Health Promotion and Wellness (HPW) which is a free, four-week program designed to help students stop smoking and/or vaping. You can schedule with UHS and HPW online through myUHS.
- Limit alcohol –we know that too much alcohol can lead to high cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Men should have no more than two drinks per day and women should have no more than one drink per day.
- Want more details on how to make healthy diet changes? Log on to myUHS to schedule an appointment with a nutrition specialist at Health Promotion and Wellness, located in the IM Building.
In an emergency, go to Mount Nittany Medical Center or call 911 for an ambulance. Send secure messages to advice nurse via UHS website or call 814-863-4463.Appointments can be made online via the UHS website, by phone 814-863-0774, or in person. If you are unable to keep your appointment, please call or go online to cancel. Otherwise you may be charged. Reviewed 6/8/2020.