Cholesterol can be both good and bad. Our bodies produce about 75% of our cholesterol and the other 25% comes from eating animal products. Our body needs some cholesterol to remain healthy. There is "good " cholesterol, which is HDL, and there is "bad " cholesterol, which is LDL. Healthy HDL levels for men should be higher than 40mg/dL and for women it should be higher than 50mg/dL. The HDL helps keep the LDL from getting in the arteries and causing blockages. Lower levels of HDL may increase the risk of heart disease in adults. LDL is produced in the body as well, but we get a lot of it from eating a high cholesterol, high saturated fat diet derived from animal products. This type of cholesterol is " bad " because it can clog up arteries and increase the risk of stroke and heart attack.
Sometimes, high cholesterol runs in families. With this condition, diet changes may not be successful at lowering cholesterol making medication necessary. Lifestyle modification is still very important, but a little help is needed to control the problem.
Triglycerides are another from of fat in the body. They are formed by fat with a sugar attached to it. High carbohydrate diets can cause triglycerides to be elevated in the body. Many people with diabetes also have high triglycerides. Being overweight, sedentary, smoking, drinking alcohol, and unhealthy eating habits can all cause triglycerides to become elevated.
Your doctor can run blood tests to check your cholesterol levels and triglycerides. Lifestyle changes such as a low cholesterol, low fat diet and regular exercise can go a long way at helping reduce LDL and increase HDL. Medications sometimes are needed. These medications can be statins ( such as Lipitor or Pravachol ), or other types of cholesterol lowering medications. You may also be prescribed a combination drug for lowering both LDL and triglycerides.
With lifestyle modifications and medications if needed, you can reduce your risk of heart attack and stroke significantly. So, be sure to ask your doctor about a blood test to check your cholesterol at your next visit.