The Good and The Bad About Cholesterol

Written by Dr. Peter Hoftiezer

There have been a lot of changes and updates to the guidelines about cholesterol over the past few years.  In the past, the medical community would talk to patients about total cholesterol and say things like “if you have a cholesterol below 200 that’s your goal.”  We don’t really talk that way anymore, instead talking about HDL or GOOD cholesterol and LDL which is BAD cholesterol.  There is a great calculator online from the American College of Cardiology that will help you and your provider calculate your 10 year and lifetime risk of having a heart attack or other cardiovascular event.  These numbers are very useful for helping to weigh the risks and benefits of when deciding whether to start or stop medication to lower cholesterol. 

Remember that cholesterol comes from two places, what you eat and what your liver makes.  How much your liver makes is based on the genetics that your parents gave you and you can’t alter that. However, you CAN have a big impact on the cholesterol that you ingest.  The tricky part is that not all cholesterol that you eat is the same, some from nuts is very healthy, while some (from some meat) is very unhealthy.  If you have questions about this, talk to a dietitian or to your health care provider. 

HDL – or ‘good’ cholesterol is increased in your body when you exercise.  The best exercise that most anyone can participate in is a good walking regimen.  If you don’t walk every day, start with a tenth of a mile or just walking to the end of your block.  Increase your distance a little every day and work slowly up to a mile or two a day.  Your heart will thank you. 

If you have any questions or are concerned about your cholesterol, talk to your health care provider.