can be both good and bad. With coronary heart disease the single largest
killer of Americans, managing cholesterol levels and taking care of your
heart can help you lead a longer, healthier life. That’s why all
Americans should know what their cholesterol levels are, how those levels
affect cardiovascular health and how a healthy diet low in dietary cholesterol,
saturated fat and trans fat can help control cholesterol.
Cholesterol is a soft, fatlike, waxy substance found in the bloodstream
and in all your body’s cells. It plays an important role in a healthy
body, aiding in the production of cell membranes and some hormones. Too
high a level of cholesterol in the blood, however, can present a major
risk for coronary heart disease, which can lead to heart attack or stroke.
Know the numbers
• LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol is considered “bad” cholesterol
because it can build up as plaque and clog arteries. An optimal level of
LDL cholesterol is less than 100 mg/dL. A level of 160 mg/dL or higher
increases the risk of heart disease.
• HDL (high-density lipoprotein) cholesterol is the “good” cholesterol.
Medical experts believe it removes excess cholesterol from the arteries
and protects against heart attack. Ideal HDL cholesterol levels are 40
mg/dL or more.
• Triglyceride (TG) is a form of fat, and many people with heart disease
and high LDL levels have high TG levels, as do diabetics and obese people.
Steps for prevention
To control your cholesterol, the American Heart Association recommends
you get total, LDL and HDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels measured,
maintain a healthy weight, be active, follow your healthcare professional’s
recommendations and eat foods low in saturated fat and trans fats, as well
Use the heart-check mark
Smart eating can help control cholesterol levels. So, when grocery shopping,
use the red heart with the white check mark to quickly and reliably find
heart-healthy foods certified by the American Heart Association. Products
bearing the heart-check mark meet the Association’s nutrition criteria
for being low in saturated fat and cholesterol. To make food shopping even
easier, log on to their website before you go. With just a click, create
a list full of certified products tailored to your family’s needs,
print it and go.