Cholesterol is a waxy substance. It’s not inherently “bad.” In fact, your body needs it to build cells. But too much cholesterol can pose a problem.
Cholesterol comes from two sources. Your liver makes all the cholesterol you need. The remainder of the cholesterol in your body comes from foods derived from animals. For example, meat, poultry and full-fat dairy products all contain cholesterol, called dietary cholesterol.
Triglycerides are the most common type of fat in the body. They store excess energy from your diet.
A high triglyceride level combined with high LDL (bad) cholesterol or low HDL (good) cholesterol is linked with fatty buildups within the artery walls, which increases the risk of heart attack and stroke.
- Take a look at your lifestyle
- Behaviors that can negatively affect your cholesterol levels include:
- Unhealthy diet
- Lack of physical activity
- Smoking or exposure to tobacco smoke
- Excess weight
- Stopping or reversing these unhealthy lifestyle factors can help improve your cholesterol numbers.
Eating a heart-healthy diet
From a dietary standpoint, the best way to lower your cholesterol is reduce saturated fat and trans fat. The American Heart Association recommends limiting saturated fat to 5 to 6 percent of daily calories and minimizing the amount of trans fat you eat.
Becoming more physically active
A sedentary lifestyle lowers HDL (good) cholesterol. Less HDL means there’s less good cholesterol to remove LDL (bad) cholesterol from your arteries.
Physical activity is important. Just 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise a week is enough to lower both cholesterol and high blood pressure. And there are lots of options: brisk walking, swimming, bicycling or even a dance class can fit the bill.
Smoking lowers HDL (good) cholesterol.
Worse still, when a person with unhealthy cholesterol levels also smokes, his or her risk of coronary heart disease increases more than it otherwise would. Smoking also compounds the risk presented by other risk factors for heart disease, such as high blood pressure and diabetes.
Being overweight or obese tends to raise LDL (bad) cholesterol and lower HDL (good) cholesterol.