Cholesterol is a fatty substance that is an important structural component of all human cells. For instance, our body requires some cholesterol to function properly, but increased levels of cholesterol can lead to severe health problems. Excess cholesterol levels can deposit within the walls of your arteries by forming hard structures called plaques, which eventually lead to hardening and blocking of the arteries. Over time, these plaques can grow in size and cause heart disease, stroke, hypertension and other problems throughout the body.


Cholesterol comes in two main types, notably a “good” and a “bad” cholesterol. High levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, the “bad” cholesterol, are more likely to clog blood vessels and are associated with an increased risk of health problems. By contrast, increased levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, the “good” cholesterol, offer protection against heart disease and strokes by carrying the cholesterol back to the liver where it will be broken down.

The body relies on two main sources of cholesterol; either from the liver, which produces about 75% of cholesterol, or through food, which should account for no more than 25%.

If your body, by heredity, produces increased level of cholesterol, you can reduce it through changes in your diet and exercise. The following are important guidelines to help you manage your cholesterol levels:

  • Cholesterol intake should be less than 200 mg per day
  • Total fat intake should account for no more than 20% to 25% of all calories
  • Specifically, saturated fats and trans-fatty acids should be minimized or eliminated from your diet. You can do so by minimizing your intake of fried products, hard margarine, shortening, and many cooking oils
  • You can increase your HDL by exercising regularly
  • Increase your intake of olive oils, raw nuts, fatty fish, fruits, vegetables and whole grains as these help you increase your HDL
  • Lose weight if you need to
  • You should test your cholesterol levels every four to six years