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Get Clued-In on Cholesterol

I'm sure you know that cholesterol has a lot to do with your overall wellness, but maybe you don't know exactly how it affects you. Read up on this little lesson about cholesterol so that you can take another healthy step to protect your heart.

So, let's start by defining cholesterol. Imagine a waxy substance floating around in the fats of your blood. Your body uses it to build healthy cells, but, when there's too much, you've got a problem. This is cholesterol.

Dr. Paul Eberts, MD of Lincoln Medical Associates at The Chester County Hospital weighs in on the effects of high cholesterol. "Having high cholesterol can increase your risk of heart disease and can cause complications such as chest pain, heart attack or stroke," Dr. Eberts explains. "High levels of cholesterol can lead to fatty deposits in your blood vessels, and this makes it tough for enough blood to squeeze through your arteries." If your heart can't get enough oxygen from your blood, your chance of a heart attack goes up. If your brain doesn't get the oxygen it needs, a stroke could be on the horizon. (Want to hear more from Dr. Eberts? Click here.)

But where does cholesterol come from? Your liver automatically churns out all the cholesterol your body needs but the most significant source is diet. Saturated fats contain more cholesterol than the other food groups, but other fats, like monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, are better choices.

High cholesterol can also be passed down in your family, so you might be able to blame mom and dad for this one. Also, some people just naturally produce more cholesterol and eliminate it more slowly. Still - no excuse not to try and do something to change it.

There are different kinds of cholesterol...how do I know what's what? Let's learn about low-density and high-density lipoproteins (LDL and HDL). LDL is the bad guy when it comes to cholesterol. This is what flows through the blood and clogs up the arteries, making them hard and narrow. HDL is the super hero of the cholesterol world, because it picks up any extra cholesterol and takes it back to your liver. This type is manufactured by your body, so don't go searching for a miracle, HDL-packed food.

Alright, let's get rid of that extra cholesterol. How do I start? A healthy diet and commitment to exercise can be a big boost to a healthy cholesterol level. Keep track of your cholesterol with your doctor by having a baseline test starting at age 20. Have your levels tested every five years, and be sure to talk with your doc about any concerns. He or she can provide you with a personal plan for your cholesterol management. Get moving for a healthy start on lowering your cholesterol!

Last Updated: 5/16/2013