Cholesterol is a fat-like substance that is found in all the cells in your body and is made by your liver. It is also found in many foods that you eat. Cholesterol is actually very important to your body, but like many things, too much of a good thing can be unhealthy. If you have too much cholesterol in your blood, you may be at risk for coronary artery disease.
Total cholesterol is made up of both high-and low-density lipoproteins as well as triglycerides. Your age, risk factors, and family history determine how often you should have your cholesterol checked with a blood test called a lipid profile. The general recommendations are for people between the age of 20- 45 to have a cholesterol test every five years; men ages 45-65 and women ages 55-65 should have the test yearly or every other year, depending on risk factors.
A healthy lifestyle and a diet high in fiber can help maintain healthy cholesterol levels. Watching what you eat, maintaining a healthy weight, engaging in physical activity, and not smoking also contribute to keeping your cholesterol levels low. Certain meats, dairy, sweets, and fried and processed foods can be high in saturated fat and cholesterol and should only be enjoyed occasionally.
While there are lifestyle factors in maintaining healthy cholesterol levels, there are biological reasons that can increase your risk of heart disease. Your age and sex, heredity, and race are all factors outside of your control and can greatly affect your health. The more risk factors you have, the greater your risk for heart problems. Taking steps to reduce the risks you can control, may help reduce the risk factors you cannot control. Your doctor will use your total cholesterol results to determine your risk for heart disease and how to best manage it.