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According to the American Heart Association, nearly 100 million Americans have high cholesterol levels. High cholesterol levels are a major risk for coronary heart disease, which leads to heart attacks.

Do you know your cholesterol levels? If not, a simple blood test taken at your doctor's office is the way to find out. Also, ask your doctor what he recommends your blood cholesterol level to be. After the initial test, unless directed otherwise by your doctor, adults 20 years of age and older should have their blood cholesterol levels checked at least once every five years.

What is Cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a soft, waxy substance found among the lipds or fats in the bloodstream and in all of your body's cells. Everyone's body produces cholesterol as it is needed for a healthy body. We also derive cholesterol from eating animal products.

Two Kinds of Cholesterol

Low-density lipoprotein, or LDL, is known as the "bad" cholesterol. Too much LDL can clog the arteries that lead to your heart and increase your risk of heart problems. High-density lipoprotein, or HDL, is known as the "good" cholesterol.

How Can I Reduce My Bad Cholesterol Level?

1. Choose foods low in saturated fat and cholesterol. These fats are found mainly in animal products such as butter, cheese, cream, ice cream, fatty meats, and whole milk. Saturated fats raise your bad cholesterol level more than any other type of fat you may eat. If you don't want to give up these foods, then substitute "low fat" products for your favorite foods instead.

2. Eat foods that contain vegetable oils such as canola, corn, olive, safflower, soybean, and sunflower oils. These oils are believed to actually lower blood cholesterol levels when used in place of saturated fats.

3. Choose lean cuts of meat. Choose fish and skinless poultry; look for meats that say "lean" on the package.

4. Limit your intake of high-fat processed meats like bacon, bologna, salami, hot dogs, and sausage.

5. Drink skim milk rather than whole milk. Use "low fat" or "nonfat" cottage cheese, cream, cream cheese, sour cream and yogurt.

6. Eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables. Some fruits contain Vitamin C, which is an effective aid in fighting high cholesterol levels. Fruits and vegetables contain no cholesterol and most are low in saturated fat. Citrus fruits and green, leafy vegetables contain antioxidants. Antioxidants inhibit the formation of cholesterol plaque in your coronary arteries.

7. Eat whole-grain bread products as well as high-fiber cereal.

8. Potassium is said to help lower bad cholesterol levels. You can get Potasssium by eating bananas, broccoli, potatoes, and tomatoes. Do not tak epotassium supplements without the approval of your doctor.

9. Lose weight. This is an important part of lowering your bad blood cholesterol. And, this will be easier than you think. Because, once you lower your intake of fatty foods that are high in calories, you will automatically lower your daily consumption of calories which will result in weight loss.

10. Replace whole eggs with egg whites or egg substitutes. Egg whites contain no cholesterol; the cholesterol is contained within the yolks.
Just remember that two egg whites equal one egg when using them in recipes.

11. Excercise has been proven to raise good cholesterol levels while lowering bad cholesterol levels. Walking, aerobics, or performing an excercise routine three to five times a week will help strengthen your heart, too.

In summary, eating the right foods and excercising are the two most important things you can do to help your cholesterol levels.

For further information, contact the National Cholesterol Education Program. NCEP has booklets for the public as well as for healthcare professionals on lowering blood cholesterol levels. To order publications on cholesterol, weight,and physical activity, or request a catalog, write to this address:

NHLBI Information Center
PO Box 30105
Bethesda, MD 20824-0105