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You may understand that cholesterol and heart disease go hand in hand, but you may not understand why. There are two different kinds of cholesterol: LDL, which is known as the "bad" cholesterol and HDL which is the "good" cholesterol. High levels of LDL cholesterol can build up on the inner walls of your arteries. If a clot forms and blocks a narrowed artery, a heart attack or stroke can occur.
Having high cholesterol is a risk factor that contributes to coronary heart disease, heart attack and stroke. There are ways to help manage your cholesterol levels, including lifestyle changes:
Eating a heart healthy diet. Be sure to incorporate fruits and vegetables, as well as whole grains and high-fiber foods, lean meats, poultry, and fish into your diet. It's also important to read food labels and look for foods that are low in cholesterol and saturated fat. Avoid foods that have trans fats.
Be active. The American Heart Association recommends you get at least 30 minutes of aerobic exercise every day. By eating healthy and staying active, you will be able to maintain a healthy weight, which is also important when managing your cholesterol.
Don't smoke and avoid all tobacco products. Tobacco smoke is one of the six major controllable risk factors for heart disease, as is managing high cholesterol. If you smoke and have high cholesterol, you have two major controllable risk factors you need to work on. Exposure to other people's smoke increases the risk of heart disease even for nonsmokers.
Take Charge of Your Heart Health
If you have never had your cholesterol checked, or if it has been more than five years since your last test, it is time to schedule an appointment.