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When is the Last Time You Had Your Cholesterol Tested

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Members should understand the importance of routine cholesterol screening tests.  
Knowing the facts about cholesterol can help reduce your risk for a heart attack or stroke. But understanding what cholesterol is and how it affects your health are only the beginning. 
To keep your cholesterol under control  
schedule a screening
eat foods low in cholesterol and saturated fat
maintain a healthy weight
exercise regularly
follow your healthcare professional's advice
 
What is cholesterol, exactly?i  
Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance found in all of your body’s cells. Your body needs it to make hormones, vitamin D and digestive acids. But too much cholesterol can put your health at risk.  
Cholesterol: the good and the badii  
HDL is the “good” cholesterol that carries the “bad” LDL cholesterol away from your arteries.  
HDL stands for high-density lipoprotein. This type of cholesterol can lower your risk of heart disease, so the higher the better. Think “HDL for healthy.”
LDL stands for low-density lipoprotein. This is the cholesterol that increases your risk of heart disease, so the lower the better.
Triglycerides are a type of fat in your bloodstream.

National Cholesterol Education Program Cholesterol Guidelines
 
Desirable 
Borderline High 
High 
Total Cholesterol  
Less than 200 
200-239 
240 and above 
LDL “bad”
Cholesterol
 
Less than 130* 
130-159 
160 and above 
Triglycerides 
Less than 150 
150-199 
200-499 
 
* Desirable range for LDL “bad” cholesterol is less than 100 for members with established cardiac disease or high risk equivalents like diabetes 

National Cholesterol Education Program Cholesterol Guidelines
 
Optimal & protective 
The higher the better 
Major risk for
heart disease
 
HDL “good”
Cholesterol
 
60 and above 
40-59 
Less than 40 
 
What causes high cholesterol? 
Several factors affect your cholesterol level: heredity, weight, a high-fat diet, being sedentary, and your age and gender. Your body makes all of the cholesterol it needs; the rest comes from the foods you eat.  
Animal foods like egg yolks, meat, poultry, shellfish and whole- and reduced-fat milk and dairy products contain cholesterol.
Plant foods – fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts and seeds – do not contain cholesterol.
 
How does cholesterol affect my health?  
Cholesterol can build up and form artery-clogging plaque. When blood flow to the heart is slowed or blocked, it can cause coronary artery disease, angina or heart attack. When blood vessels to the brain become clogged or blocked, it can cause a stroke.iii  
How can I improve my cholesterol levels?iv  
You can’t control your family history, but there are several things you can do right now to help control your cholesterol. 
Eat heart-healthy foods. Fish and fiber-rich fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
Limit dietary cholesterol. Aim for less than 300 milligrams a day, or less than 200 mg daily if you have heart disease.
Choose monounsaturated fats. Olive and canola oils are healthier than saturated and trans fats.
Be physically active. Aim for 30 to 60 minutes of activity a day, with your doctor’s okay.
Stay at a healthy weight. Losing just 5 to 10 pounds of extra weight may help lower your cholesterol.
Limit alcohol. One drink a day for women, two for men.
Live smoke-free. Smokers who quit can improve their HDL cholesterol, lower their risk of heart attack within 24 hours, and cut their heart attack risk in half within a year.
 
If a healthy lifestyle isn’t enough, your doctor may prescribe medication to help control your cholesterol. Be sure to take medicine exactly as prescribed, and follow your doctor’s advice about regular visits and cholesterol checks.  
Where can I get more information? 
Visit the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute online at nhlbi.com, and the American Heart Association at americanheart.org. Please talk to your doctor if you have questions or concerns about your cholesterol. 
 
Sources  
i National Heart Lung and Blood Institute, “High Blood Cholesterol,”
http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/dci/Diseases/Hbc/HBC_WhatIs.html
,
Feb. 22, 2008.  
ii National Cholesterol Education Program, www.nhlbi.nih.gov, March 19, 2008.  
iii American Heart Association, “Stroke,”
http://www.americanheart.org/presenter.jhtml?identifier=4755
, Feb. 25, 2008.  
iv Mayo Clinic, “High blood cholesterol: Self-care,”
http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/high-blood-cholesterol/DS00178/DSECTION=9
,
Feb. 22, 2008.  
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