Managing cholesterol is a balancing act

Managing your cholesterol can be a balancing act. To best reduce your chances of heart disease, you want to have low levels of total cholesterol, but you want higher levels of high-density lipoproteins (HDL) cholesterol.

That’s because not all cholesterol was created equal.

HDL cholesterol is also known as “good” cholesterol. It helps prevent “bad” cholesterol (low-density lipoproteins, or LDL) from getting lodged in your artery walls. It does this by acting as cholesterol scavengers. It picks up excess cholesterol in your blood and takes it back to your liver where it’s broken down. By doing this, it reducing your risk of heart disease and stroke.

LDL cholesterol, however, can clog your arteries and increase your risk of heart attack. The body produces it naturally, but many people inherit genes from their family that cause them to make too much. You can also create higher levels by eating saturated fat and trans fats.

The good news is there are things you can do to make sure you have the right balance of cholesterol (high levels of HDL, low levels of LDL). Avoiding tobacco smoke, maintaining a healthy weight and being physically active can all help. So can eating whole grains, such as oatmeal, oat bran and whole-wheat products.

Everyone is different, so in addition to taking these simple steps you should also consult with your doctor. Your doctor will be able to work with you to find the treatment plan that best suits your needs.