Cholesterol: Use What You Know to Improve Your Health 

March 6, 2024

No matter how bad the news is about your cholesterol, there’s generally an upside.

While cholesterol is no joke, and high bad cholesterol levels can really wreak havoc on your health, there are several steps you can take to manage your levels and regain control of your health.

Understanding cholesterol

Fat and protein make up the waxy material that is cholesterol. The body needs cholesterol to generate hormones, make vitamin D and facilitate digestion.

Your body makes cholesterol, but it’s also in many of the foods you eat, working its way through the bloodstream by riding on the backs of lipoproteins.

However, too much of the bad kind of cholesterol can dramatically raise your risk of stroke or heart attack.

Getting to know good and bad cholesterol

  • Bad cholesterol, or low-density lipoproteins (LDLs), are stickier and tend to attach themselves to the artery walls. They become plaque and eventually stop the flow of blood to the heart. At this point, you’ll have coronary artery disease, which can directly cause a stroke or heart attack.
  • Good cholesterol, or high-density lipoproteins (HDLs), plays an important role in your body. They route cholesterol to the liver, which then flushes it out of the body, so it won’t build up in your arteries.
    • Cholesterol helps your body create bile, which aids in the digestion of food and absorption of nutrients.
    • It helps your body turn sunlight into Vitamin D – necessary factors for keeping your bones strong and calcium production at optimum levels.
    • Good cholesterol keeps important hormones like estrogen, progesterone and testosterone at the right levels.

Assessing your health based on cholesterol

There’s a lot you can tell about your overall health just by getting your cholesterol levels checked. Here’s what a healthy cholesterol range will look like:

  • Anything less than 200 milligrams per deciliter for a combined LDL and HDL cholesterol level is good.
  • Your LDL (or bad cholesterol) score should be less than 100.
  • Your HDL level, or good cholesterol, should be higher than 60.

The reason to be concerned

If your cholesterol numbers are high for the combined score or the HDL level, there is reason to be concerned.

Even if you feel fine, cholesterol is hard at work. It’s often referred to as the silent killer because you might not experience symptoms before a heart attack or stroke.

Some of the common contributors to high cholesterol include smoking, diabetes, genetic causes, poor nutrition or not exercising.

Getting your cholesterol back on track

There’s good news if you want to work on lowering your numbers. You can do a lot to manage cholesterol.

Manage your diet. Doctors generally recommend avoiding high-cholesterol foods and those high in saturated fat to help control your diet. These foods have positive effects on cholesterol.

  • Oats
  • Whole grains
  • Beans
  • Okra
  • Eggplant
  • Vegetable oils
  • Apples, grapes, strawberries, citrus fruits
  • Soy
  • Fish
  • Red wine
  • Nuts
  • Dark chocolate

Exercise. The combined effort of eating better and exercising will help you lose weight (if you need to), keep your bad cholesterol levels down and your good cholesterol levels up. These exercises are great, low-impact choices.

  • Brisk walking
  • Swimming
  • Water aerobics
  • Gentle forms of yoga and/or pilates

Taking medications. If you can’t manage your cholesterol with diet and exercise, your doctor may recommend medication such as a statin.

The more you know

For more tips about your health or for information about how to ensure your health insurance covers the medications and lab tests you need, contact UROne Benefits™ here or at 800-722-7331.

This post was originally published in March 2018; updated March 2024.