Cholesterol is a waxy substance in the blood made by the liver. Some cholesterol is healthy, but when there's too much in the blood, it can build up on the walls of the blood vessels. Healthy eating and exercising are excellent ways to lower cholesterol. However, sometimes medication is needed, which should be taken just as prescribed.
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Cholesterol can be checked with a simple blood test at your physician's office, health fair, pharmacy or other location. A small blood sample is taken from your finger or arm. Depending on the type of test, you may need to avoid eating for several hours beforehand.
You should have your cholesterol checked as often as your physician or health care provider recommends. This may be every five years or more often, depending on your overall health.
Total Cholesterol: This number is the total amount of cholesterol in your blood. The higher the number, the more likely it is that cholesterol is affecting your health.
Monounsaturated fats lower LDL (bad) cholesterol. Mostly found in vegetable oils such as olive, canola and peanut oils, monounsaturated fats are also in avocados and some nuts.
Polyunsaturated fats lower total and LDL (bad) cholesterol. They are mostly found in vegetable oils such as corn, safflower and soybean oils. These fats are also found in some seeds, nuts and fish.
Saturated fats raise total and LDL (bad) cholesterol. These fats are in animal products such as meat, poultry, milk, lard and butter. They're also found in coconut and palm oils.
Trans fats raise LDL (bad) cholesterol. Trans fats are in hydrogenated oils and are found in processed foods such as cookies, crackers and some types of margarine. Note: No trans fat means less than 0.5 grams trans fat per serving, even though hydrogenated oil is listed in the ingredients.
When shopping, compare food labels for low-fat, low-cholesterol choices. Buy fresh foods when you can. When eating out, check the menu for low-fat or heart-healthy options. Ask for dishes to be made with less fat. Order salad dressings on the side.
Healthy eating and exercising are excellent ways to lower cholesterol. However, you may need something more. Your physician may describe medication, which you should take just as prescribed.