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Good Cholesterol vs. Bad Cholesterol: What the Numbers Mean

Healthy To-Do: Get Your Cholesterol Checked

Do you have high cholesterol? If your answer is "I don't know," perhaps it's time to find out.

Even if you eat healthy and exercise regularly, you may have high cholesterol and not even know it. Found in animal cells and animal-based foods, cholesterol is a nutrient both acquired through eating and produced by your liver. Eating too many saturated fats, including those found in dairy products and tropical oils, can lead to high cholesterol, as can genetics and other factors.

You've probably heard about "good" cholesterol and "bad" cholesterol; these terms refer to the lipoproteins that transport cholesterol though the blood vessels. High-density lipoprotein (HDL) is the good kind and helps with essential body functions; LDL (low-density) is the bad kind. My mnemonic device for keeping them straight is "H" is for healthy and "LDL" stands for "little devil" and is bad.

Less than 200 mg/dL is considered a desirable total cholesterol count, while an LDL of 100 mg/dL is an optimal goal for most people. High cholesterol can be controlled with foods and other lifestyle choices. You can determine your numbers with a simple blood test, so put "get cholesterol checked" on your to-do list.

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