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If you have high cholesterol, you’re not alone. According to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 73 million adults in the United States have high cholesterol. That’s almost a third of adults in this country.

What is cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a fatty substance. Your liver makes some cholesterol, but it’s also present in foods made from animals. For example, your eggs, meat, and dairy products all have cholesterol. When you have too much cholesterol, it can build up along the walls of your arteries, causing them to narrow. As the arteries narrow, blood flow decreases or becomes blocked. When that happens, you’re at risk of developing heart disease, a heart attack, or even a stroke.

Kinds of cholesterol: LDL vs HDL cholesterol

Did you know your body actually needs some cholesterol to function properly? The issue is the kind of cholesterol.

LDL

Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) is considered the bad cholesterol. Trans fats, saturated fats, and sugar can all contribute to higher levels of LDL cholesterol—the bad stuff. Being overweight also contributes to higher levels of LDL cholesterol.

HDL

High-density lipoprotein (HDL) is considered the good cholesterol. Regular exercise helps bring LDL cholesterol down, and raise HDL cholesterol—the good stuff—up.

Cholesterol treatment options

What can you do to help get your cholesterol under control?

Diet

One of the first things your doctor may recommend is to improve your diet. You may not have to eliminate the foods you love, but you can cut back on them. A healthy diet is one of the best ways to lower your LDL cholesterol.

Exercise

Along with a good diet, increased physical activity can help lower cholesterol. Try adding an exercise regime to your week. You can also make small changes. Take the stairs at work, rather than the elevator. Go for a walk around the block after dinner. Consider riding your bike or walking if you have a close errand. All the little things start to add up.

Medication

If improved diet and exercise just aren’t making a big enough dent in lowering your LDL cholesterol, then your doctor may try prescribing you a statin drug, like Lipitor, Crestor, or something similar. Talk about your treatment options and find what works best for you.

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