Let’s Talk About Cholesterol

If you have high blood cholesterol, you have a greater chance of getting coronary heart disease or having a heart attack or stroke. Coronary heart disease is the leading cause of death in people over 65. It can also make doing things like walking harder to do.

High cholesterol does not have symptoms. You might not know you have it.

By lowering your cholesterol, you lower your chances of heart disease. You also increase your chances of doing things you enjoy as you get older.

Coronary (KORE-uh-naree) arteries are blood vessels that carry blood from your heart to otherareas of your body.

Cholesterol (cole-ES-ter-all) is a waxy fatty film found in your blood. Your body needs some cholesterol, but it makes all that it needs. In coronary heart disease, cholesterol builds up on the walls of your coronary arteries. This can slow down or stop the flow of blood to your heart.

What Should My Cholesterol Level Be?
The amount of cholesterol in your blood can be measured by a blood test. Talk to your doctor about when you should take this test.

General rules:
• An LDL cholesterol level of less than 100 mg/dL is considered very good.
• An LDL cholesterol level of 160 mg/dL or higher is considered high.
Talk to your doctor about your cholesterol goals.

There are two types of cholesterol—HDL cholesterol and LDL cholesterol. LDL cholesterol is called “bad cholesterol.” It can stick to the walls of your arteries and lead to heart disease. HDL cholesterol is called “good cholesterol” because it protects you from heart disease.

What Can I Do to Lower My Cholesterol?
As you get older, your cholesterol levels rise. Your risk of high cholesterol is even higher if you eat a diet high in fat and cholesterol. If you are overweight or if you don’t exercise enough, you are at higher risk. Work with your doctor to find ways to lower your cholesterol. Set goals for yourself.

Provided as an educational resource by Merck