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Monthly Spotlight: Cholesterol Awareness

Heart disease is the No. 1 cause of death in the United States. Over 2,100 Americans die of cardiovascular disease each day, an average of one death every 40 seconds.

The good news is, you can lower your cholesterol and reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke.

What is cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a waxy substance that comes from two sources: your body and food. Your body, and especially your liver, makes all the cholesterol you need and circulates it through the blood. But cholesterol is also found in foods from animal sources, such as meat, poultry and full-fat dairy products. Your liver produces more cholesterol when you eat a diet high in saturated and trans fats.

Cholesterol Sources

Excess cholesterol can form plaque between layers of artery walls, making it harder for your heart to circulate blood. Plaque can break open and cause blood clots. If a clot blocks an artery that feeds the brain, it causes a stroke. If it blocks an artery that feeds the heart, it causes a heart attack. Learn more by visiting Watch, Learn, and Live: Interactive Cardiovascular Library.

There are 2 types of cholesterol, HDL (Good) cholesterol and LDL (Bad) cholesterol.

LDL cholesterol contributes to plaque, a thick, hard deposit that can clog arteries and make them less flexible. This condition is known as atherosclerosis. If a clot forms and blocks a narrowed artery, heart attack or stroke can result. A low LDL cholesterol count is good.


HDL cholesterol helps remove LDL cholesterol from the arteries. Experts believe HDL acts as a scavenger, carrying LDL cholesterol away from the arteries and back to the liver, where it is broken down and passed from the body. A high HDL cholesterol count is good.

What do I do if I have high cholesterol?

Talk to your doctor. They will work with you to make lifestyle changes, such as diet, level of physical activity, etc. They will talk to you about making sure to cook foods that are healthy and have the correct amount of HDL and LDL. Once you talk to your doctor it is very important that you stick with your new routine to lower our cholesterol. Do not be afraid to ask questions or seek help when you need it. Creating a support group within your family or friends will help you stay accountable and will make the lifestyle changes easier.

What are some foods I can eat to improve my cholesterol count?

The American Heart Association came out with this list of foods to eat and foods to avoid if you want to lower your cholesterol:

What should I eat?

What should I limit?

Fruits and vegetables Foods with a lot of sodium (salt)
Whole grain foods like whole grain bread, cereal, pasta, and brown rice. Sweets and sugar-sweetened beverages
Fat free or low fat dairy products Red meats and fatty meats that aren’t trimmed
Poultry without skin and lean meats. Meats labeled “loin” and “round” cuts usually have the least amount of fat. Meats that have been processes with a lot of sodium
Fatty fish such as salmon, trout, albacore tuna, and sardines. Full-fat dairy products
Unsalted nuts, seeds, legumes (beans and peans) Baked goods made with saturated and trans fats like donuts and cookies.
Non-tropical vegetable oils like canola, corn, olive, orsafflower oils. Foods with “hydrogenated oils”
  Saturated oils like coconut oil, palm oil, and palm kernel oil
  Solid fats like shortening, stick margarine and lard
  Fried foods

Source: American Heart Association