Skip Ribbon Commands
Skip to main content


Controlling Your Cholesterol

Cholesterol is a waxy substance that travels in your blood through blood vessels.  When you have high cholesterol, it builds up in the walls of the blood vessels, making the vessels more narrow.  Blood flow decreases, creating a greater risk for having a heart attack or a stroke.

Good and Bad Cholesterol

Lipids are fats, and blood is mostly water.  Fat and water don't mix, so our bodies need lipoproteins (lips inside a protein shell) to carry the lipids through the bloodstream.  There are two main kinds of lipoproteins:

  • LDL (low-density lipoprotein) is known as "bad cholesterol."  It mainly carries cholesterol delivering it to the body cells.  Excess LDL cholesterol will build up in artery walls, increasing your risk for heart disease and stroke.
  • HDL  (high-density lipoprotein) is known as "good cholesterol."  This protein shell collects excess cholesterol that LDLs have left behind on blood vessel walls, decreasing your risk of heart disease and stroke. 

​​Controlling Cholesterol Levels

Total cholesterol includes LDL and HDL cholesterol, as well as other fats in the bloodstream.  If your total cholesterol is high, follow the steps below to help lower your total cholesterol level:

  • Eat less unhealthy fat
    • Cut back on saturated fats and trans fats by selecting lean cuts of meats, low-fat dairy, and using oils instead of solid fats.  Limit baked goods, processed meats, and fried foods.  A diet that's high in these fats increases your bad cholesterol.
    • Eat about 2 servings of fish per week.  Most fish contain omega-3 fatty acids which help lower blood cholesterol.
    • Eat more whole grains and soluble fiber such as oat bran which lowers overall cholesterol.  
  • Be Active
    • Choose an activity you enjoy.  Walking, swimming and riding a bike are some good ways to be active.
    • Start at a level where you feel comfortable, increasi​ng your time and pace a little each week.
    • Work up to 40 minutes of moderate to high-intensity physical activity at least 3 to 4 days per week.
    • Remember, some activity is better than none. 
    • If you haven't been exercising regularly, start slowly.  Check with your physician to make sure the exercise plan if right for you.
  • Quit smoking.  By quitting, you can improve your lipid levels and lower your risk for heart disease and stroke.
  • Weight management.  If you are overweight or obese, your health care provider can work with you to lose weight and lower your BMI (body mass index) to a normal or near-normal level.  Making diet changes and increasing physical activity can help.
  • Take medication as directed.  Many patients need medication to get their LDL levels to a safe level.  Medications to lower cholesterol levels are effective and safe, but taking medication is not a substitution for exercise or watching your diet.  Your physician can tell you whether you might benefit from a cholesterol-lowering medication.