The Facts about Cholesterol


Improve physical fitness and enhance your health.

Cholesterol is a soft, waxy substance found in your bloodstream and in all your body’s cells. Cholesterol has an important role, such as forming cell membranes and some hormones.

But too much cholesterol can lead to artery blockages, which may result in heart attacks and strokes. Elevated cholesterol levels can run in families (genetic). Cholesterol cannot dissolve in your blood. It has to be carried to and from your cells by special movers called lipoproteins.

Low-density lipoproteins (LDL)
LDL is the bad cholesterol. It’s important to keep your LDL levels low. High LDL can lead to clogged arteries, heart attack, and stroke. Your ideal LDL level is 100 mg/dL, or under 70 mg/dL if you have heart disease.

High-density lipoproteins (HDL)
HDL is the good cholesterol. It removes excess cholesterol from plaque, and carries cholesterol to your liver. From there, it can be passed from your body. Low HDL can lead to a higher risk of heart attack and stroke. Your ideal HDL level should be more than 60 mg/dL.

How can I improve my cholesterol?

Eat less:

  • Saturated fats
  • Meat and poultry
  • Refined carbohydrates

Eat more:

  • Vegetables
  • Legumes
  • Whole grains

It’s also important to exercise regularly, drink alcohol in moderation, and take all medications prescribed by your doctor. If you are a smoker, quitting will help you improve your cholesterol.

For more information on managing your cholesterol, contact your health care provider or visit the American Heart Association’s website.