Cholesterol is a fat-like substance that gives structure to the cell in our bodies. Cholesterol levels become a concern if we have too much circulating in our blood, which is a major risk factor for heart disease. There are different types of cholesterol in the body:
HDL cholesterol, high density lipoprotein cholesterol, is also known as “good cholesterol”. Higher levels of HDL cholesterol have been shown to be related to a decreased risk of developing cardiovascular diseases.
LDL cholesterol, low density lipoprotein cholesterol, is known as “bad cholesterol”. LDL cholesterol contributes to the development of plaque in the vessels, making them stiff and less flexible.
The ratio of total cholesterol to HDL cholesterol is the best indicator for the development of heart disease.
Many dietary factors influence the risk of heart disease. Nearly all foods of animal origin contain cholesterol. Dietary cholesterol may increase blood cholesterol levels in some individuals, but not all. However, eating too much fat from any source, especially excessive saturated fat, has been found to increase risk of heart disease. In contrast, diets high in whole grains, vegetables, and fruits are higher in fiber, vitamins, and minerals and can lower the risk of heart disease. For more information, visit the American Heart Association website.
More Information and Helpful Links:
American Heart Association
American Heart Association’s Diet and Lifestyle Recommendations
American Heart Association’s Nutrition Basics
American Heart Association: Fish 101
How to Quit Smoking - Tobacco Cessation
NIH: 10-year Risk Assessment Calculator
UGA Recreational Sports