Cholesterol education from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona is a paid advertiser of Sonoran Living Live

It's a common misperception that all cholesterol is the enemy. But Dr. Ed Fenstermacher of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona is here to set the record straight and give us the skinny on this fatty substance.

The holiday season is nearly here, so it's an especially appropriate time to consider your own cholesterol count and whether you know what it is, what it means, and what to do about it.

Cholesterol is a fatty substance that plays a key role in all mammals' cellular makeup. The problem comes when blood cholesterol levels get too high. This can lead to plaque build-up in arteries, heart disease, and other heart problems.

We get cholesterol from two main sources: our diet and our own body. Dietary cholesterol comes from animal-based foods, including meat, eggs, cheese and yogurt. However, about 75 percent of a person's cholesterol is created by their own liver.

The good news is that cholesterol is largely manageable through lifestyle changes. For instance, limit intake of high-fat and high-cholesterol foods, including red meat, cheese, egg yolks, and ice cream. Additionally, increase intake of vegetables (cooked without added fats), fruits and whole grains. Frequent exercise and weight loss can also aid the quest for lower cholesterol, as can quitting smoking.

Anyone over the age of 20 should have their cholesterol levels checked every five years - or more if your doctor recommends it. Results will show four numbers: the total cholesterol, HDL, LDL and triglyceride levels. The HDL represents the good cholesterol, where higher levels are preferable. LDL is the bad cholesterol, and should be kept low. Triglycerides are another form of fat, and the total cholesterol takes all three of these into consideration. It's ideal to keep cholesterol counts above 40 for HDL, below 100 for LDL, below 150 for triglycerides and below 200 for total.

If you're concerned about your cholesterol - or have never been tested - talk with your doctor today. There are simple changes you can make to manage your heart health.

*This is not a medical recommendation, anyone with concerns or questions about their health should contact their physician. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona is an Independent Licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association.

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