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Cholesterol, and your control of its intake, can be a very easily understood concept if approached correctly. This page, is organized into a few introductory topic headings with some explanations following. You may scroll down the page or jump to a specific topic.

What is Cholesterol? Primary Sources of Cholesterol Why Do We Need Cholesterol? How Serious is High Cholesterol? Cholesterol Concerns For Children Determining If You Have High Cholesterol How to Lower Your Cholesterol Available Cholesterol Materials

This information is not intended to replace or substitute in any way the services of a physician. Any application of the recommendations set forth in the following pages is at the reader's discretion and sole risk.


What is Cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a soft, odorless, waxy-type substance which is part of all animal cells, including those of humans. It is one of a number of fats, called lipids, found in the blood. It is essential and very much needed by the cells in your body. However, just as any good thing, when there is too much of it, it can cause serious problems.


Primary Sources of Cholesterol:

  1. Within the body - the liver, intestines and skin produce all the cholesterol the body needs.
  2. In the foods we eat - foods only of animal origin such as:
    • egg yolks
    • dairy products
    • meat
    • poultry
    • fish
Although the above are the primary sources of cholesterol, research has unequivocally proven that eating saturated fat makes blood cholesterol rise more than eating cholesterol itself.


Why Do We Need Cholesterol?

Cholesterol is essential to many of your body's chemical processes such as: Cholesterol travels to your cells via your bloodstream. Since cholesterol is a fat, it does not mix with water or blood and must be wrapped in protein. The combination of cholesterol and protein is called lipoprotein cholesterol. The ones you hear most about are the "bad" LDLs (Low Density Lipoproteins) and the "good" HDLs (High Density Lipoproteins).


How Serious is High Cholesterol?

High cholesterol means you have more cholesterol present in your bloodstream than is necessary for normal, healthy functioning.

High cholesterol, particularly high LDLs, increase the risk of plaque build up in the walls of the arteries (atherosclerosis), which increases the risk of disorders of the cardiovascular (circulatory) system, the heart and all the body's blood vessels (arteries, veins and capillaries). The most common areas for plaque build up are:

Atherosclerosis contributes directly to:

Cholesterol Concerns for Children

Because of one or more of the following, children are becoming more at risk for developing high cholesterol levels and other risk factors for heart diseases affecting the coronary arteries and blood vessels.
  1. * Sedentary lifestyles - video games, TV and internet in place of vigorous physical activities
  2. * High fat and sugar junk food
  3. * Overweight or obesity
Children over 2 years of age should be tested if either biological parent has or has had a high cholesterol(above 240) or there is a biological family history of early cardiovascular disease. A child or adolescent should be test if any of the following pertain to him/her:
  1. * smoking
  2. * diabetes
  3. * obesity (30% or more overweight)
  4. * high blood pressure
  5. * oral contraceptive use
To help your children avoid high cholesterol, encourage them to eat less fatty and sugary foods by having fruits and raw veggies available for snacks and serving 2 or 3 vegetables at meals. Try using fruits for desserts. Also encourage more physical activity - walking, hiking, biking, swimming, using stairs rather than elevator or escalator, playing games - volley ball, tennis, ping pong, croquet, golf, soft ball, etc. Include your children in house, yard and gardening activities - cleaning, repairs, raking, mowing, pulling weeds, etc. Do work and play activities as a family.


How To Determine If You Have High Cholesterol

Two tests for determining your cholesterol:
  1. Total cholesterol test - usually done per a finger prick and doesn't tell you the amounts of the various components (LDLs, HDLs, triglycerides or the ratio).
  2. Total Lipid Profile - includes 5 components and is the better test since it shows a more complete picture
    • Total cholesterol
    • LDL cholesterol
    • HDL cholesterol
    • Triglycerides
    • Total cholesterol/HDL cholesterol ratio


How To Lower Your Cholesterol

  1. Change the foods you eat

    • Eat less fat, particularly saturated fat found in animal products (meats, poultry, whole mild and its products) which means trim the fat and remove the skin before cook. Limit or avoid coconut oil, palm and palm kernel oils, and cocoa butter which are often found in commercial baked goods. Also limit or avoid hydrogenated vegetable oils. Use canola, corn and olive oils for cooking because they are low in saturated fat and high in monounsaturated fat.
    • Eat less cholesterol- but its more important to eat less saturated fat than it is to eat less cholesterol. Cholesterol is only in foods of animal origin: lean parts of meats, poultry, fish and shellfish; milk products; egg yolks.
    • Eat more fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains.

  2. Do moderate aerobic exercise:

    • This type of exercise can:
      1. Increase the "good" HDLs
      2. Lower the "bad" LDLs
      3. Decrease triglycerides
      4. Reduce stress, which is associated with high cholesterol
    • Examples of moderate exercise:
      1. Brisk walking
      2. Bicycling; outdoor and stationary
      3. Swimming
      4. Jumping rope
      5. Tennis, singles
      6. Active dancing; line and square dancing
      7. Cross country skiing

  3. Reduce weight if necessary

    -For the best overall results, your weight reduction program should include both diet changes and exercise. To achieve or maintain a recommend weight, your daily caloric intake must not exceed the number of calories your body burns daily. Therefore if you eat fewer calories and increase your physical activity on a regular basis, you should reduce your weight. It is suggested not to decrease your daily calories below what is recommended for your desired weight, for your age and height.

For complete information on cholesterol lowering see Available Cholesterol Materials

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