Regarding the troublesome fat your body makes called cholesterol: Chances are good that you may not need drugs to keep it in check. 

True, people with a strong genetic predisposition to high cholesterol often need medication to control cholesterol. But a lot of people don't. 

For most people, lifestyle changes are the key to maintaining a healthy balance between bad cholesterol, which clogs the arteries, and good cholesterol, which combats the clogging process. 

High cholesterol levels

Nearly 100 million American adults have cholesterol levels above 200 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) according to the American Heart Association. About 34 million Americans have cholesterol levels of 240 mg/dL, which is considered high risk. These numbers indicate that a shift in everyday health habits is in order. Although you can't do much about such risk factors as family history, age or ethnicity, there are others that you can control. 

Start by getting your cholesterol checked regularly and talking with the doctor about the results. Then take a look at your all-important diet.

Cholesterol-lowering good health calls for a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish, skinless poultry, nonfat dairy, beans, seeds, nuts, and healthy vegetable oils like olive or canola. Your diet should restrict saturated fat, trans fat, and salt. You should also cut back on sugar and refined flour, which have been linked with high triglycerides, another dangerous fat in the blood.

A more sensible diet should help you keep your weight within a healthy range, with a body mass index of 18.5 to 25. A healthy weight also reduces your chances of developing metabolic syndrome, a condition associated with high cholesterol, high blood pressure, high triglycerides, and a high risk for type 2 diabetes.

What you can do

Other steps to take:

  • Get regular aerobic exercise. Regular physical activity is critical to improving your cholesterol levels and cutting your risk for heart disease. Exercise reduces not only total cholesterol, but also LDL cholesterol and triglycerides, and increases HDL ("good") cholesterol.

  • If you drink, do so in moderation. Excessive alcohol use increases triglyceride levels.

  • Reduce stress. It may help keep your cholesterol in check.

  • If you smoke, quit. Smoking raises triglyceride levels and increases the risk for metabolic syndrome.

Medical Reviewer: [Akin, Louise RN, BSN, Holper, Elizabeth MD] Copyright: Copyright Health Ink & Vitality Communications

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Kids who grow quickly as toddlers or teens tend to have lower cholesterol levels as adults, new research says. A 2007 study in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health also found that people who become overweight after age 15 are more likely to have higher cholesterol levels.