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All of us have been told that we need to take the necessary steps to control and/or improve our cholesterol levels. According to the CDC 1 in 6 Americans adults have high cholesterol. In addition a growing number of children are also developing high cholesterol due to lack of exercise and poor diet choices. This is a dangerous development due to the known association between high cholesterol and heart disease-the leading cause of death in the U.S. But what is cholesterol and what should your levels be?

Cholesterol is a waxy, natural fat found in your body and is necessary for producing certain hormones, making vitamin D, and for building cell walls. While necessary and naturally occurring, our bodies only need a limited supply to maintain proper function. In fact a healthy liver will produce about 1,000 milligrams of cholesterol every day, which is in adequate level alone. The problem comes from our ingestion of additional cholesterol throughout the day. Cholesterol is most commonly found in animal-based products such as meats and fat-containing dairy products like cheese and ice-cream. Levels of cholesterol will vary on the fat content of the items consumed. More fat tends to mean more cholesterol. In contrast food such as fruits, veggies, and whole grains contain no or very limited amounts.

Cholesterol is found in two forms high-density lipoproteins (HDL) and low-density lipoproteins (LDL). LDL is considered to be problem-causing form as it can cling to artery walls and lead to eventual blockages. The HDL form of cholesterol is actually a benefit to the body as it acts as a retriever for cholesterol deposits in the body caused by the LDL. Unfortunately most cholesterol is LDL and not HDL. Typically physicians recommend maintaining a total cholesterol level (HDL + LDL) under 200 milligrams. It is important to note though that just because your total is 200 or slightly above does not mean you have a cholesterol problem. Higher levels of HDL is actually viewed as a positive rather than a negative. The following are guidelines for understanding your cholesterol reading:


-High > 159 < 35 > 239     – Medium 130-159 n/a 200-239     – Average < 130 > 60 < 200

If you find that your levels are in the medium to high range, there are ways to make changes in order to bring those levels into average and desirable ranges. It has been shown that exercise raises the “good” cholesterol in your body, while eating a heart healthy diet can lower your “bad” cholesterol; therefore, your total, HDL, and LDL numbers could be changed positively. Here are a few things you might want
to try to help ensure healthier cholesterol levels:

1. Start or continue an intense work out program- increasing your cardiovascular work helps to raise the HDL’s and lowers your body weight.

2. Reduce the fat in your meals by eliminating butter, high-fat processed meats like sausage and bacon,
cheese, whole milk and oils.

3. Limit your packaged products.

4. Reduce cholesterol causing foods like egg yolks, pre-made cakes, cookies, muffins and fried foods.