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Cholesterol is a waxy substance that’s found in the fats (lipids) in your blood. While your body needs cholesterol to continue building healthy cells, having high cholesterol can increase your risk of heart disease. When you have high cholesterol, you may develop fatty deposits in your blood vessels. Eventually, these deposits make it difficult for enough blood to flow through your arteries.
According to recent statistics from the American Heart Association, blacks actually have better cholesterol levels than whites.
Terms to Know
- LDL (“bad”) cholesterol makes up the majority of the cholesterol in the body. Too much LDL can lead to heart disease.
- HDL (“good”) cholesterol reduces the risk for heart disease. Scientists think that HDL mops up bad cholesterol and carries it to the liver, which then flushes it from the body.
High cholesterol has no symptoms. A blood test is the only way to detect high cholesterol.
Some health conditions, as well as lifestyle and genetic factors, can put people at a higher risk for developing high cholesterol
A healthy diet can help keep blood cholesterol levels down. Avoid saturated fat, trans fats, and dietary cholesterol, which tend to raise cholesterol levels. Other types of fats, such as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, can actually lower blood cholesterol levels. Eating fiber can also help lower cholesterol.
If you have high cholesterol, your doctor may prescribe medications in addition to lifestyle changes. Controlling LDL cholesterol is the primary focus of treatment.
References: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; National Institutes of Health – The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI)
Cholesterol Statistics. AmericanHeart.org. 14 Apr. 2008. American Heart Association. 11 Sep. 2008 http://www.americanheart.org/presenter.jhtml?identifier=536
Heart Disease and African Americans. OMHRC.gov. 27 Jun. 2008. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: Office of Minority Health. 11 Sep. 2008 http://www.omhrc.gov/templates/content.aspx?ID=3018.