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Doing This One Thing Can Slash Your Cholesterol Risk

Cardiologist explains what to know about high cholesterol and ways to reduce your risk. 
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

High cholesterol is a health issue many don't realize they have because there's oftentimes no signs, but if left untreated it can cause heart disease, which is the leading cause of death, or stroke. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "Nearly 94 million U.S. adults age 20 or older have total cholesterol levels higher than 200 mg/dL. Twenty-eight million adults in the United States have total cholesterol levels higher than 240 mg/dL." While there's risk factors like family history and age that you can't change, there are lifestyle choices that reduce the chance. Eat This, Not That! Health spoke with Eric Stahl, MD Non-Invasive Cardiologist at Staten Island University Hospital who shares what to know about cholesterol and ways to help prevent it. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


What to Know About Cholesterol


Dr. Stahl says, "When excess cholesterol circulates in the blood, the risk of cardiovascular disease, such as heart attack and stroke, increases. While some cholesterol is needed for metabolism and good health, excess cholesterol can develop from poor diet, genes, smoking, sedentary lifestyle, and obesity. There are different types of cholesterol. Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) is the "bad cholesterol". It binds to fats and builds in the walls of the arteries causing atherosclerosis. High-density lipoprotein (HDL) is the "good cholesterol" and it removes LDL from the bloodstream. Triglycerides is not a type of cholesterol, but is a fat that stores excess energy. Triglyceride levels are often reported on a cholesterol panel blood test. For adults, cholesterol should be checked every 5 years if they are low risk, or more frequently if they have risk factors for hypercholesterolemia."


Quit Smoking

Hand stubbed out cigarette in a transparent ashtray on wooden table

Dr. Stahl emphasizes, "Quitting smoking is a very important aspect of reducing cholesterol, lowering LDL and raising HDL. Smoking also promotes accelerated atherosclerosis and quitting helps to reduce cardiovascular disease."


Physical Activity

middle-aged woman jogging in winter in a close up low angle view against a sunny blue sky in a healthy active lifestyle

Dr. Stahl states, "Being more active helps to reduce cholesterol, particularly by raising HDL. 150 minutes per week of moderate intensity aerobic exercise is recommended to help reduce cholesterol. Brisk walking, jogging, bicycling, or swimming are all excellent ways to be more active."   


Losing Weight

woman jogging

Dr. Stahl explains, "Obesity is a major risk factor for high cholesterol. Even modest weight loss can reduce cholesterol levels. Weight loss of 5-10% has been shown to reduce total cholesterol, LDL, and triglycerides. Weight loss of greater than 10% reduces these levels even more. Focusing on eating a heart healthy diet and increasing physical activity can help to attain these weight loss goals." 


Eating a Heart Healthy Diet

Senior woman making choice between healthy and junk food

"One of the most important ways to lower the risk of high cholesterol is eating a heart healthy diet," Dr. Stahl tells us. "The American Heart Association recommends limiting the consumption of saturated fats to less than 6% of your daily caloric intake and minimizing trans fats. Following the Mediterranean diet and limiting red meat, dairy products, and fried foods will help to reduce cholesterol." 

Heather Newgen
Heather Newgen has two decades of experience reporting and writing about health, fitness, entertainment and travel. Heather currently freelances for several publications. Read more about Heather