All About Cholesterol

Cholesterol is the name of a group of fats called lipoproteins that are part of the body's metabolism. Lipoprotiens play an important part in how the body works, but too much of some types can be harmful.

Low-density lipoproteins (LDL), or "bad" cholesterol, can lead to a buildup of cholesterol in the arteries. In general, the lower your LDL the better. Many people with diabetes should be taking a type of drug called a statin, which reduces LDL and helps reduce the risk of damage to blood vessels.

High-density lipoproteins (HDL), or "good" cholesterol, helps remove cholesterol from your body. In general, the higher your HDL the better.

Triglycerides are another kind of blood fat that raises your chances for a heart attack or stroke if your levels are too high.

Talk to your doctor about how often you should have your cholesterol checked. 

What Can I Do to Improve My Cholesterol?

It's a good idea to have your cholesterol checked every 5 years, or more often if there's a problem. Here are some steps you can take to improve your cholesterol:

  • If you smoke, quit
  • Lose weight if needed
  • Exercise most days of the week (brisk walking for 30 minutes/day is a good goal)
  • Eat a low-fat, low-cholesterol diet with plenty of fresh veggies, whole grains, and fruit
  • Increase monounsaturated fats in your diet. Monounsaturated fats include canola oil, avocado oil, or olive oil
  • Your doctor may also prescribe cholesterol-lowering medicine

Cholesterol is also affected by blood pressure and blood glucose. If your blood glucose and blood pressure are high, your cholesterol numbers may be off as well. All of these are risk factors for diabetes and heart disease, and the more risk factors you have, the higher your risk. Talk to your doctor about whether you may be at higher risk for diabetes and heart disease. Then take steps to lower your risk so you can live a longer, healthier life.

For more information about cholesterol, visit the National Cholesterol Education Program.

  • Last Reviewed: August 13, 2015
  • Last Edited: March 21, 2017

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