Kim Malsam-Rysdon, Secretary of Health


High cholesterol is a risk factor for heart disease and stroke. The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) defines cholesterol as a waxy substance produced by the liver or consumed in certain foods. It is needed by the body, and the liver makes enough for the body’s needs. When there is too much cholesterol in the body, it is deposited in arteries, including those of the heart and brain. This can lead to narrowing of the arteries, heart disease, stroke, and other problems. If your arteries become too narrow for blood to flow through, you may be at risk for a heart attack or stroke.

See your doctor for a cholesterol screening to assess your risk, and Cholesterol Animationto find out your cholesterol numbers. A lipid panel or profile can be done to measure several different forms of cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood. There are different types of cholesterol, both good and bad. HDL (high density lipoprotein) is known as “good” cholesterol and actually offers some protection against heart disease and stroke, whereas LDL (low density lipoprotein) is referred to as “bad” cholesterol and can lead to heart disease and stroke. Your doctor may be able to prescribe medication to successfully lower your cholesterol. However, proper nutrition and regular physical activity are extremely important, and their effects should not be underestimated. They are necessary components and compliment most healthcare plans. In fact, often times, these two behaviors alone may be enough to successfully lower and control one's cholesterol levels. Note: always check with your doctor prior to starting any new exercise plan.

Cholesterol: The Good and the Bad

Cholesterol isn’t just something that sits in your body like fat around your waist. It’s carried through your bloodstream by carriers made of fat (lipid) and proteins. These are called lipoproteins.

Two types of lipoproteins carry cholesterol to and from cells. One is low-density lipoprotein, or LDL. The other is high-density lipoprotein, or HDL. The amount of each type of cholesterol in your blood can be measured by a blood test.

LDL (Bad) Cholesterol

LDL cholesterol is called “bad” cholesterol. Think of it as less desirable or even lousy cholesterol, because it contributes to fatty buildups in arteries (atherosclerosis). Plaque buildups narrow arteries and raise the risk for heart attack and stroke. It can also cause peripheral artery disease, which can narrow arteries in the legs, stomach, arms, and head.

HDL (Good) Cholesterol

HDL cholesterol is “good” cholesterol. Think of it as the “healthy” cholesterol, so higher levels are better. Experts believe HDL acts as a scavenger, carrying LDL cholesterol away from the arteries and back to the liver. There it’s broken down and passed from the body.

A healthy HDL cholesterol level may protect against heart attack and stroke. Studies show low levels of HDL cholesterol increase the risk of heart disease. HDL cholesterol does not completely eliminate LDL cholesterol. Only one-fourth to one-third of blood cholesterol is carried by HDL.


Triglycerides are the most common type of fat in the body; they store excess energy from your diet. A high triglyceride level combined with low HDL cholesterol or high LDL cholesterol is linked with fatty buildups in artery walls. This increases the risk of heart attack and stroke.

Lipid Profile:

  • Recommended Total: Less than 200
  • Recommended LDL: Less than 100
  • Recommended HDL: Greater than 50 in women, Greater than 40 in men
  • Triglycerides: Less than 150
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