Last updated: Sep 02, 2008
1. Cholesterol is in:

All of the above

Cholesterol is an important organic compound that the body uses to make brain cells, sex hormones (like testosterone), and fat-digesting bile. Transporter proteins, known as lipoproteins, ferry cholesterol around the body, including to the liver for removal. Cholesterol is only dangerous when the levels of low-density lipoproteins (LDL), also known as "bad cholesterol," are too high, or when levels of high-density lipoproteins (HDL), known as "good cholesterol," are too low. When this occurs, cholesterol can accumulate in the walls of arteries. These fatty deposits can rupture, which causes a blood clot to form. An abrupt cutoff of blood flow can cause heart tissue to die—an event known as a heart attack.

2. Which of the following foods doesn't contain cholesterol?


Cholesterol is naturally produced in the bodies of animals. Therefore, you won't find cholesterol in plant-based foods, although such foods may contain saturated fat, which your body can convert into cholesterol. While the fat content in food is now thought to be a more important player in determining the cholesterol level in your body, you should still limit your dietary cholesterol to less than 300 mg/day if you are healthy, and less than 200 mg/day (the amount found in one egg yolk) if you have cardiovascular disease, diabetes, or elevated LDL cholesterol. Walnuts contain omega-3 fatty acids (as do certain types of fish), which are thought to help lower cholesterol.

3. How many adults in the United States have high cholesterol?

1 in 2

Roughly half (48.4%) of American adults over age 20 have a total cholesterol level higher than 200 mg/dL, according to 2005 data from the American Heart Association.

4. True or False: Having a total cholesterol level above 200 mg/dL always means that youre at greater risk of heart problems.


While its true that a total cholesterol level of 200 mg/dL puts you in a higher risk category, doctors now know that the amounts of HDL and LDL can affect heart attack risk. LDL shuttles cholesterol away from the liver and can deposit it in the walls of arteries. HDL is considered good because it tends to scavenge cholesterol out of the body and deposit it in the liver. Some people with high total cholesterol may be somewhat protected from heart disease if their HDL level is relatively high. However, if your total cholesterol is very high—240 mg/dL or more—you have twice the risk of heart disease as someone with 200 mg/dL, on average.

5. True or false: Elevated cholesterol is hazardous only in adults, not children.


In 2008, the American Academy of Pediatrics issued new guidelines for cholesterol screening in children. The organization recommended treatment, including diet, exercise, and statin drugs, if necessary, for children 8 years and older with elevated LDL levels (190 mg/dL, or 160 mg/dL if there are other risk factors, and 130 mg/dL for kids with diabetes). It also recommends testing high-risk children (starting as early as age 2), which includes those who have a family history of early heart disease, and those who are overweight, have high blood pressure, smoke, or have diabetes.

6. Which of the following can lower your cholesterol?

All of the above

A diet rich in soluble fiber can reduce your cholesterol. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration allows certain products containing fiber to bear a label claiming that they may reduce the risk of heart disease as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol. The eligible products include oatmeal and oat bran, but those arent the only foods that lower cholesterol. Pinto and navy beans, olive oil, fiber supplements containing psyllium husk, and margarines that contain plant sterols have also been shown to lower cholesterol.

7. Unhealthy cholesterol levels can increase your risk of which of the following?

All of the above

When LDL cholesterol is elevated (or when HDL cholesterol is too low), fatty deposits can form in just about any blood vessel in the body. If heartarteries are clogged, it causes a heart attack; if a vessel in your neck begins to close, you are at risk for a stroke. Those are the two major threats, but there are many more problem spots. The narrowing or hardening of arteries is thought to contribute to memory loss, eye disease, leg pain (which occurs with peripheral arterial disease, or PAD), and sexual dysfunction. Although the exact mechanism is unknown, unhealthy cholesterol is also associated with a loss of kidney function.

8. True or false: The average American has lower cholesterol now than he did 40 years ago.


The total cholesterol level of the average American adult has been declining since the 1960s, mainly because people have reduced the fat and cholesterol in their diets. The use of cholesterol-lowering drugs has played a role as well, however, and may have offset a rise in cholesterol levels among the growing number of obese individuals in the population.

9. True or false: Overweight people tend to have higher cholesterol than thinner people.


If you are carrying extra weight, your cholesterol is probably higher than your same-age peers with a thinner physique. Losing weight and exercising can help lower LDL and raise HDL cholesterol. However, not all people who are overweight automatically have high cholesterol. By the same token, thin people cant ignore their cholesterol. Cholesterol can be elevated in the body due to a number of factors, including diet and family history, so it is possible to be thin and have unhealthy cholesterol levels.

10. Regular exercise can raise your good cholesterol by roughly:

2–3 points

A 2007 analysis found that regular exercise (at least 30 minutes of aerobic exercise four times a week) raises HDL cholesterol by an average of 2.53 mg/dL. This change in HDL decreases the risk of cardiovascular disease by approximately 5% in men and nearly 8% in women.

11. True or false: Smoking can make your cholesterol worse.


Smokers tend to have higher LDL and lower HDL compared to their nonsmoking peers. Even secondhand smoke is thought to have a similar effect.

12. When you get a lab report, you want an HDL cholesterol reading of:

Over 60 mg/dL whether youre a man or woman

HDL, or good cholesterol, tends to be slightly higher in women than in men. If your HDL is below 40 mg/dL if youre a man or 50 mg/dL if youre a woman, youre at greater risk of heart disease. If you have an HDL level above 60 mg/dL, it protects against heart disease.

13. When you get a lab report, you want an LDL cholesterol reading of:

Less than 100 mg/dL

LDL is a cholesterol-carrying protein that can deposit cholesterol in your blood vessels, so the less you have of it, the better. The optimal level is less than 100 mg/dL, although 100–129 mg/dL is near optimal. If your level is 130–159 mg/dL, youre borderline high; 160–189 mg/dL puts you in the high category and 190 mg/dL is the danger zone.

14. Some doctors may use your "cholesterol ratio," the ratio of total cholesterol to HDL (good) cholesterol, to determine your risk for heart disease. You should aim for a cholesterol ratio of:


Although the American Heart Association recommends that patients look at their total cholesterol and HDL cholesterol to determine their heart-disease risk, your doctor might give you those results as a ratio. For example, if your total cholesterol is 200 mg/dL and you have an HDL of 50 mg/dL, your ratio would be 4:1. The optimal ratio is considered to be 3.5:1.