Straight to the Heart


Healthy choices help you control your cholesterol.

What doubles your risk for a deadly heart attack or stroke? High cholesterol. Without any signs or symptoms, plaque could be building up in your arteries, creating deposits that reduce blood flow.

Anyone, at any age, can have high cholesterol and not know it.

You are in danger of developing high cholesterol if you eat a high-fat diet, are overweight or obese, are inactive or smoke. People with diabetes or high blood pressure have an increased risk. And if you have a family history of high cholesterol, be sure to monitor your levels closely.

While about 28.5 million adults have high cholesterol, it’s not a death sentence. Anyone can take action to lower their cholesterol or maintain healthy cholesterol levels. Here’s how:

  • Know your numbers. Total cholesterol of less than 200 mg/dL is good; 200-239 mg/dL is borderline; 240 mg/dL and above is high. Ideally, LDL “bad” cholesterol should be less than 100 mg/dL. The optimal HDL “good” cholesterol level is 60 mg/dL or higher.
  • Get your cholesterol checked. Have a blood test every 4-6 years; more often, if your doctor recommends it.
  • Ask your doctor about cholesterol-lowering medications. Several types of prescription drugs can effectively lower LDL “bad” cholesterol and reduce your health risks.
  • Eat heart-healthy foods. Choose vegetables, beans, seafood, whole grains and nuts… and avoid solid fats, added sugars, refined grains and red meat.
  • Be active. Get at least 30 minutes of brisk activity (like walking) most days of the week.
  • Stop smoking. When you quit, “bad” cholesterol will go down and “good” cholesterol will go up, slowing new plaque buildup.
  • Limit alcohol. If you do drink, women should limit it to one drink a day; men to two drinks.
  • Lose extra weight. Losing as little as 5% of your body weight can lower your cholesterol levels. For someone weighing 175 pounds, that’s just around 8 pounds of weight loss!
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