While there are many things you can do to keep your cholesterol normal, some unhealthy behaviors can contribute to your risk for high cholesterol, which in turn raises your risk of heart disease.
Certain foods raise your cholesterol levels. These foods tend to contain saturated fats, trans fatty acids (trans fats), dietary cholesterol, or triglycerides.
Being overweight can raise LDL, lower HDL, and raise total cholesterol levels.
Not getting enough exercise can make you gain weight, which can lead to increased cholesterol levels.
At a Glance: Key Definitions
- Cholesterol is a fat-like substance in the body. High levels in the blood can lead to heart disease and stroke.
- LDL ("bad") cholesterol makes up the majority of the cholesterol in the body. Too much LDL can lead to heart disease.
- HDL ("good") cholesterol reduces the risk for heart disease. Scientists think that HDL mops up bad cholesterol and carries it to the liver, which then flushes it from the body.
- Saturated fats come largely from animal fat in the diet, but also from some vegetable oils such as palm oil.
- Trans fats come from vegetable oil that has been hardened by a process called hydrogenation. Many snack foods, fast foods, and baked goods contain trans fats.
- Dietary cholesterol occurs in foods that come from animal sources, including egg yolks, meat, and dairy products.
- Triglycerides are another type of fat in food. The body also can turn some carbohydrates into triglycerides. As with cholesterol, having high blood levels of triglycerides can raise a person's risk for heart disease.