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The HealthCare Ministries of Mathews United Methodist Church

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Have you or a loved one been diagnosed with high cholesterol?  If so, read on for more information about cholesterol numbers, ways to get it under control, and additional resources to help you.


Cholesterol is an important part of living cells in the body.  But, as in most things, too much can be bad for you leading to coronary artery disease, and/or cardiovascular disease.  Cholesterol is a fatty substance that can be oily and sticky.  It can’t be dissolved in the bloodstream, so must be transported to and from the cells by special carriers called lipoproteins.  We know these lipoproteins more commonly as LDL (bad cholesterol) and HDL (good cholesterol).   LDL cholesterol is unstable and tends to fall apart as it’s transported to the liver for elimination. If the LDL is high, the particles that fall apart begin to clump up leading to hardening of the arteries/plaque build-up.  This build up of plaque causes arterial blood flow to become less efficient, leading to increased risk of blood clot formation that can cause a heart attack or stroke. HDL carries cholesterol away from the arteries and high levels seems to decrease a person’s risk for heart disease and/or stroke. 


Triglycerides are a form of fat that come from the foods we eat and is produced in the body.   Many times a person with high cholesterol will also have high triglycerides.  The cause of high triglyceride levels may be genetic.  Lifestyle changes are necessary to decrease triglyceride levels that are too high. The American Heart Association states, “People with high triglycerides may also need to limit their intake of carbohydrates to no more than 45–50 percent of total calories. The reason for this is that carbohydrates raise triglycerides in some people and lower HDL cholesterol. Use products with monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.”


According to research studies, your risk of coronary heart disease increases as you age.  Age and gender are factors we can’t change.  We should be aware, however that males are at higher risk than females until women reach menopause.  At that time, a woman’s risk is similar to a man’s. 


Factors that can be changed include lifestyle habits such as smoking, drinking, and inactivity.  Some evidence suggests that drinking small to moderate amounts of alcohol can be beneficial to your heart.  But, excessive amounts especially over long periods of time increase your risk of heart disease.  Exercise regularly to help decrease your risk.  The recommended amount of exercise is 30 minutes of aerobic exercise 3-5 days/week.


It is important to know how we get cholesterol.  There are two ways; the body makes some and the rest comes from our dietary intake.  Animal product foods such as meats, chicken, fish, eggs, butter, cheese, and whole milk contribute to our cholesterol consumption.  Foods from plant sources such as fruits, vegetables, and cereals do not contain cholesterol. Other foods contain trans-fats.  Trans-fats are unsaturated fats that have been hydrogenised or fermented and act in the body much like saturated fats.  Saturated fats are solid at room temperature. These cause your body to produce more cholesterol.   


What should my “numbers” be?


The American Heart Association endorses these National Cholesterol Education Program guidelines:

  • Total cholesterol less than 200 mg/dL 
  • LDL less than 100mg/dL
  • HDL greater than 40mg/dL for men, and greater than 50mg/dL for women
  • Triglycerides less than 150mg/dl

Statin drugs


The drugs of choice for treating high LDL cholesterol are known as statins.  Commonly known statin drugs include Lipitor®, Zocor®, and Pravachol®.  These drugs work in the liver to prevent formation of cholesterol.  They are most effective when used to lower LDLs, but also can help to lower triglycerides and raise HDLs.  The main side effect of these type drugs is myopathy (muscle weakness and muscle pain).  These drugs in combination with diet modifications are usually effective in decreasing cholesterol levels. 


For more information, visit the following websites (each opens in a new window):



| Back To The HealthCare Ministries Homepage | The Ministry of Caring | Health Fair |

| Blood Pressure: The Silent Killer | Focus on Cholesterol | About Diabetes |

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This webpage was last revised on 05 February 2008