The American Heart Association offers a simple, seven-step list to help people live longer, healthier lives. They call them “Life’s Simple7” and they are: Get Active, Eat Better, Lose Weight, Control Cholesterol, Manage Blood Pressure, Reduce Blood Sugar and Stop Smoking. This time we’ll focus on controlling cholesterol.
First of all, although cholesterol comes out as a villain in the story of heart health, it’s only partly the case. Cholesterol is actually an important part of a healthy body because it's used for good and important stuff, like producing cell membranes and some hormones, and serves other needed bodily functions. But too much of a good thing can cause problems--cholesterol in the blood is a major risk for coronary heart disease (which leads to heart attack) and for stroke.
The American Heart Association explains as part of their My Life Check Heart Health Factors that cholesterol is a soft, fat-like, waxy substance found in the bloodstream and in all your body's cells. It comes from two sources: your body and food. Your liver and other cells in your body make about 75% of blood cholesterol. The other 25% comes from the foods you eat.
The aforementioned villainous cholesterol is LDL cholesterol. When too much of it circulates in the blood, it can clog arteries, increasing your risk of heart attack and stroke. LDL cholesterol is produced naturally by the body, but many people inherit genes that cause them to make too much. Eating saturated fat, trans fats and dietary cholesterol also increases how much you have.
Find out how much good and bad cholesterol you have in your body with a blood test, and then use The American Heart Association’s My Life Check and Seven Simple Steps to improve your overall heart health!