Carrie Skogsberg: The word "cholesterol" can sound like a dirty word - but did you know that cholesterol itself isn't actually bad? In fact, it's just one of the substances created and used by our bodies to keep us healthy. Some of it is created naturally, and some comes from the foods we eat. These are some tips on how to manage cholesterol for optimal heart health.
What is cholesterol?
There are two types of cholesterol. HDL (the "good" kind) and LDL (the "bad" kind). Too much of one type - or not enough of the other - can put you at risk for heart disease or stroke. Too much LDL cholesterol can clog arteries. Many people are prone to high LDL cholesterol because of a family history that causes them to make too much. HDL cholesterol keeps LDL from clogging the arteries.
About 75 percent of blood cholesterol is created by the liver, and the other 25 percent comes from foods. It is only found in animal products.
How can I lower my cholesterol?
The American Heart Association recommends eating healthy foods, losing weight if you need to and being physically active to naturally lower cholesterol. Sometimes these actions aren't enough - a person might have to take medication and follow a plan set up by a doctor.
If you are trying to implement a low-cholesterol diet, try these foods:
Individuals looking to lower cholesterol should limit the following foods:
Cooking tips for low-cholesterol diets
The best way to find a plan that works for you is to consult with your doctor and have your levels checked. Your doctor can provide the most tailored approach to lowering your LDL cholesterol levels and getting you on track to a healthy heart!
For recipes and tips on lowering cholesterol and other risk factors of heart disease, log on to www.heart.org.
Carrie Skogsberg is a communications director for the American Heart Association.