Cholesterol is a fat-like substance inside the body, and it is used to make certain hormones, to help the liver create bile, which plays a role in the digestion of food that we eat. It is also a structural component of every cell in our body.
Two types of cholesterol are usually reported in routine cholesterol screening; 1) high density lipoprotein (HDL) also called "good cholesterol" and 2) low density lipoprotein (LDL) also called "bad cholesterol".
Cholesterol, especially LDL, can build up inside the wall of someone's blood vessels called arteries and thus increase the risk of developing heart disease. When the level of cholesterol in the blood is too high, the condition is called "high blood cholesterol."
High blood cholesterol is often due to an excessive consumption of foods that are rich in saturated fats, trans fats, dietary cholesterol, or triglycerides. However, in few cases, it can be due to excess internal production, independent of food consumption.
In New Hampshire, high blood cholesterol increased from 74% in 1999 to nearly 83% in 2009. A similar pattern was observed with the median percentage of the U.S. population (Figure 1).
Data Source: New Hampshire BRFSS, 2009
Figure 1. Trends of Self-reported Prevalence of High Blood Cholesterol in New Hampshire, Compared with Median United States, 1999-2009
What Can Be Done to Control High Blood Cholesterol
First, talk to your provider about getting tested to determine your cholesterol level. If it is high, your provider can prescribe medications to help control it. However, in addition to medications, other steps that you should take to keep it under control include:
- A healthy diet
- Regular exercise
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Stop smoking
Those lifestyle changes are as important as taking medications to control high blood cholesterol. Talk to your provider to learn more about other ways to manage your blood cholesterol.