A diet low in saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol, plenty of exercise, weight management, and no smoking can help prevent high cholesterol. Because cholesterol levels tend to increase with age, paying attention to diet and exercise is particularly important as you get older. High blood cholesterol is a major risk factor for heart disease. There are a number of things that can be done to maintain normal cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of developing heart disease.
What can you do?
Have your cholesterol checked. There are usually no signs or symptoms of high blood cholesterol. It is therefore important to have your blood cholesterol checked. A simple blood test can be done by your doctor to check your blood cholesterol level. Cholesterol levels are measured in milligrams (mg) of cholesterol per deciliter (dL) of blood. Desirable or optimal levels for adults with or without existing heart disease are:
Maintain a healthy Diet. An overall healthy diet can help to maintain normal blood cholesterol levels. Saturated fat, dietary cholesterol and trans fats tend to raise blood cholesterol levels. (Basically, trans fat is made when manufacturers add hydrogen to vegetable oil – a process called hydrogenation. Hydrogenation increases the shelf life and flavour stability of foods containing these fats.) Other types of fats, such as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats can help to lower blood cholesterol levels. (An unsaturated fat is a fat or fatty acid in which there are one or more double bonds in the fatty acid chain. A fat molecule is monounsaturated if it contains one double bond, and polyunsaturated if it contains more than one double bond). Getting enough soluble fiber in the diet can also help to lower cholesterol.
Maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight or obese can raise your bad cholesterol levels. Losing weight can help you lower them. Healthy weight status in adults is usually assessed by using weight and height to compute a number called the "body mass index" (BMI). BMI is used because it relates to the amount of body fat for most people. An adult who has a BMI of 30 or higher is considered to be obese. Overweight is a BMI between 25 and 29.9. Normal weight is a BMI of 18.5 to 24.9.
Be active. Physical activity can help to maintain a healthy weight and lower blood cholesterol levels. It is being recommended that adults should engage in moderate-level physical activities for at least 30 minutes on most days of the week.
No tobacco. Smoking injures blood vessels and speeds up the process of hardening of the arteries. Further, smoking is a major risk for heart disease and stroke. If you don’t smoke, don’t start. Quitting smoking lowers one’s risk of a heart attack and a stroke.
Medications. If you are found to have high blood cholesterol, your doctor may prescribe medications, in addition to lifestyle changes, to help bring it under control. The primary focus of treatment is to get LDL cholesterol under control. Your treatment plan and goal will depend on your LDL level and your level of risk of heart disease and a stroke.