What is Cholesterol and How to Manage it

Cholesterol in simple terms is a waxy fat-like substance that is found in the walls of cells present in the body. It is present from the nervous system, liver to the heart. Cholesterol is used by the body to make hormones, bile acids, vitamin D, and various substances in the body.

Our body makes cholesterol in the body. It is then circulated in the bloodstream. Since cholesterol has an oil base and is a waxy substance it is not mixed in blood. It is transported in the bloodstream in form of packages called lipoproteins.


Low-density lipoprotein

In common language is known as LDL. It is known as bad cholesterol. It carries cholesterol to tissues which include arteries. The higher the level of LDL cholesterol in the blood, the greater your risk for heart disease.

High-density lipoprotein

Another type of cholesterol is high-density lipoprotein. It is known as good cholesterol. It helps transportation of cholesterol from tissues to the liver. A low level of HDL cholesterol increases your risk for heart disease.

Risk of Excess Cholesterol

The presence of the excess amount of cholesterol can accumulate in the walls of arteries. It builds plaque in some time and can narrow arterial walls. This condition is known as arteriosclerosis. It results in the hardening of the arteries. This accumulation of cholesterol can be seen in any arteries. Symptoms will depend upon the involvement of arteries.

Risk factors of heart disease

  • Age (45 or older for men; 55 or older for women)
  • Diabetes.
  • Family history of early heart disease (father or brother diagnosed before age 55, or mother or sister diagnosed before age 65. High blood cholesterol can run in families)
  • High blood pressure
  • Overweight or obesity
  • Physical inactivity
  • Smoking

It is seen that Blood cholesterol begins to rise around age 20 and continues to go up until about age 60 or 65. Before age 50, men’s total cholesterol levels tend to be higher than those of women of the same age-after age 50, the opposite happens. That’s because, with menopause, women’s LDL levels often rise.
It is said that saturated fat raises your LDL cholesterol level more than anything else in your diet. Diets with too much-saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol are the main cause for high levels of blood cholesterol.
Overweight people typically have increased triglycerides and a low amount of High-density lipoprotein.

Cholesterol Level

It should be kept in mind that all adults age 20 and older should have their cholesterol levels checked at least once every 5 years.

Total Cholesterol

  • Less than 200 mg/dL Desirable
  • 200–239 mg/dL Borderline high
  • 240 mg/dL and above High

LDL Cholesterol

  • Less than 100 mg/dL Optimal (ideal)
  • 100–129 mg/dL Near optimal/above optimal
  • 130–159 mg/dL Borderline high
  • 160–189 mg/dL High
  • 190 mg/dL and above Very high

HDL Cholesterol

  • Less than 40 mg/dL Major heart disease risk factor.
  • 60 mg/dL and above Gives some protection against heart disease.


If a person has a low intake of foods that have healthy and protective fats. It increases HDL in the blood.
Excess consumption of fatty meats, dairy products, butter, coconut oil, palm oil, and deep-fried items.

Foods high in polyunsaturated fats include:

  • Margarine spreads and oils such as sunflower, soybean, and safflower
  • oily fish
  • some nuts and seeds

Foods high in monounsaturated fats include:

  • margarine spreads and oils, such as olive, canola, and peanut
  • avocados
  • some nuts


Limit foods high in saturated fat. Saturated fats come from animal products (such as cheese, fatty meats, and dairy desserts) and tropical oils (such as palm oil). Foods that are higher in saturated fat may be high in cholesterol.

Choose foods that are low in saturated fat, trans fat, sodium (salt), and added sugars. These foods include lean meats; seafood; fat-free or low-fat milk, cheese, and yogurt; whole grains; and fruits and vegetables.

Eat foods naturally high in fiber, such as oatmeal and beans (black, pinto, kidney, lima, and others) and unsaturated fats, which can be found in avocado, vegetable oils like olive oil, and nuts). These foods may help prevent and manage high levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL, or “bad”) cholesterol and triglycerides while increasing high-density lipoprotein (HDL, or “good”) cholesterol levels.

  • Always choose lean meats like chicken.
  • Egg whites can be used freely. Limit the use of egg yolks.
  • Always eat three fresh fruit per day. Make sure to have at least one citrus fruit daily.
  • Consume vegetables that may be boiled or steamed.
  • Use dried peas or beans.
  • Always use skim milk or skim milk products such as low-fat cheese.
  • Limit fruit juice with elevated triglycerides, fruits packed in heavy syrup or sugar; sweetened fruit juice, fruit drinks, sports drinks.
  • Eat whole-grain foods which are rich in soluble fibres like oats and barley.
  • Always include 2 omega-3 rich fish meals salmon, trout, and sardines.
  • Eat nuts like almonds and walnuts, small portions 5 times a week.
  • Exercise regularly. move your body 30 minutes each day.
  • If you are overweight, work to reduce your weight by 10%.
  • If your triglycerides are high, limit sugars and alcohol.
  • Recent studies have shown that eating an egg a day will not increase cholesterol or risk for heart disease.
    However, if you have diabetes you should limit your egg consumption to no more than 6 eggs per week.
    Nuts such as almonds, walnuts, pecans, and pistachios can help lower cholesterol.
  • Avoid adding salt to food.
  • Season your food with herb and spice blends.
  • Avoid fast foods.
  • Alcohol: Men – limit to less than 2 drinks per day or 14 per week. Women – limit to 1 drink a day or 9 per week.
  • Sugars – reduce added sugar e.g. table sugar, syrup, jam, honey, molasses. Limit juice, pop, candies, sweets, chocolate, and baked goods.


  • Including at least 30 minutes of brisk activity, such as walking, four (4) or more days per week can lower your LDL and raise your HDL.
  • Start with a brisk 10-minute walk a few times per day and increase gradually from there.
  • Gentle stretching exercises increase your flexibility and release tension in your muscles and joints. Aim for 4 or more stretching sessions per week.
  • Strength exercises improve muscle and bone density keeping you strong and stable. Include these 2-4 times per week.

Remember to start slowly and consult your physician before starting a new exercise program


Vegetables prepared with butter, cream, or sauce; battered and deep-fried.

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