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Cholesterol & Heart Disease

One of the major contributing factors leading to heart disease is high cholesterol.  When we eat foods high in cholesterol, it ends up the blood stream.  Eventually it begins to build up on the walls of the arteries causing them to become narrow (atherosclerosis).  As the arteries become narrowed, it interferes with blood flow to the heart muscle.  When the blood flow slows down to the point where the heart is deprived of oxygen, it can cause chest pain (angina) and when blood flow to the heart is completely blocked, it causes a heart attack (myocardial infarction).

Cholesterol is transported throughout the bloodstream by lipoprotein carriers: LDLs, VLDLs, HDLs and triglycerides.

  • LDL (Low Density Lipoproteins): bad cholesterol. LDL circulates and deposits cholesterol on artery walls.
  • VLDL (Very Low Density Lipoproteins): fat carriers. High levels of LDL and VLDL has been linked to coronary artery disease.
  • HDL (High Density Lipoproteins): good cholesterol. HDL carries cholesterol away from the blood stream out of the body.
  • Triglycerides: another form of fat in the blood stream. High levels of triglycerides increase your risk of coronary artery disease.

Your Cardiac Lipid Profile (Cholesterol)

Lipid Categories Desirable Level
Total Cholesterol less than 150
LDL less than 75
VLDL 6 - 40
HDL 45 - 75
Triglycerides less than 150
Total Cholesterol / HDL ratio less than 3.5


Facts About Cholesterol

  • Cholesterol is a waxy substance produced by the liver.
  • The body produces about 2/3 of the cholesterol we need.
  • The other 1/3 comes from the foods we eat.
  • Cholesterol is present only in animal products, milk, cheese, meat and eggs.
  • Plant foods are cholesterol free. Eat more whole grains, cereals, fresh fruits and vegetables.
  • Raising HDL (good) cholesterol benefits your heart. Raise HDL levels by quitting smoking, losing weight and exercising.


Since fat can help your body make and transport cholesterol, you will need to eat less total fat. Eating a diet low in fat (30% of your total calories) is beneficial for heart disease prevention, diabetes, and cancer prevention.

Avoid Saturated Fat

Saturated fat increases your cholesterol levels and risk of coronary artery disease. Most saturated fats are solid at room temperature.

  • Animal sources of saturated fat to avoid: shortening, meat fat, fried foods, ice cream, butter, lard, pastries, sour cream, poultry skin, bacon, whole milk
  • Plant sources of saturated fat to avoid: palm oil, palm kernel oil, coconut oil, cocoa butter

Avoid Trans Fat

Trans fat is primarily found in foods containing "hydrogenated" oils and raises your LDL or bad cholesterol.

  1. Trans fats are often found in fried foods, vegetable shortenings, stick margarine, baked goods and snack foods.
  2. The Nutrition Facts panel lists the amount of saturated and trans fat in one serving.  Choose foods that are low in both of these fats.

Select Unsaturated Fat

Polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fat are beneficial when consumed in small amounts (6-8 tsp. daily) for lowering cholesterol. Omega-3 fatty acids decrease triglyceride levels and slow the growth rate of atherosclerotic plaque.

  • Monounsaturated fat: Canola Oil, Peanut Oil, Olive Oil, Nuts & Avocados
  • Polyunsaturated fat: Safflower, Corn, Sesame, Sunflower, Soybean, Cottonseed Oils
  • Omega-3 fatty acids: Salmon, Herring, Trout, Ground Flaxseed, Walnuts, Canola Oil, Soybean Oil, and Fish Oil


Cholesterol - HDL and LDL

Click here to learn more.

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