National Cholesterol Education Month
Two out of 3 adults have high cholesterol—or high LDL "bad" cholesterol.1 Learn more about what steps you can take to prevent high cholesterol or to reduce your levels.
What is cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance that your body needs. But, when you have too much in your blood, it can build up on the walls of your arteries. This can lead to heart disease and stroke.
There are two kinds of cholesterol, high density lipoprotein (HDL). It is also called "good" cholesterol. There is also low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol. It is also called "bad" cholesterol. When we talk about high cholesterol, we are talking about “bad” LDL cholesterol.
What role does screening play?
Screening is the key to detecting high cholesterol. High cholesterol does not have symptoms. As a result, many people do not know that their cholesterol is too high. Doctors can do a simple blood test to check patients’ levels.
The National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP) recommends that adults aged 20 years or older have their cholesterol checked every 5 years.
In national surveys done from 2005–2009, the number of people who said they were screened for cholesterol within 5 years increased from 73% to 76%. However, only a handful of states met the 80% Healthy People 2020 objective, and disparities persist among sociodemographic groups.3
How can you prevent or control high cholesterol?
Make therapeutic lifestyle changes (TLC) by eating a low-fat, high-fiber diet and being physically active most days of the week: 4
- Eat a healthy diet that is low in salt; low in total fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol; and rich in fresh fruits and vegetables.
- Take at least 1 brisk 10-minute walk, 3 times a day, 5 days a week.
- Maintain a healthy weight.
- Don't smoke. If you smoke, quit as soon as possible
Have your cholesterol levels checked every 5 years and be sure to follow your doctor's instructions and stay on your medications, if prescribed, to control your cholesterol.
Are there clinical and community programs to help address cholesterol?
Eating a healthy diet, being physically active, and achieving and maintaining a healthy body weight can help decrease your risk of developing serious health conditions such as high cholesterol. There are also a variety of community and clinical activities that address cholesterol screening and treatment:
- CDC’s National Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention programs support states implementing evidence based practices in community and clinical settings, specifically highlighting cholesterol control within communities.
- The National Cholesterol Education Program provides evidenced-based resources and recommendations to health care providers, and new guidelines for cholesterol are currently in development.5
- The Million Hearts™ initiative, a public/private partnership, is an innovative alignment and coordination of clinical and community activities targeting leading causes of cardiovascular disease morbidity and mortality—including the improvement of cholesterol control.
- CDC. Vital signs: prevalence, treatment, and control of high levels of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol. United States, 1999–2002 and 2005–2008. MMWR. 2011;60(4):109–14.
- CDC. Prevalence of cholesterol screening and self-reported high blood cholesterol among U.S. adults, 2005–2009. MMWR.2012; 61.
- National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Your guide to lowering your cholesterol with TLC. NIH Publication No. 06-5235. Bethesda, MD: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health; 2005. Available from: www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/public/heart/chol/chol_tlc.pdf [PDF - 1.74MB]
- Grundy SM, Cleeman JI, Merz C, et al. Implications of recent clinical trials for the National Cholesterol Education Program Adult Treatment Panel III Guidelines. Circulation. 2004;110:227−39.
- Healthy People. Heart disease and stroke. Healthy People 2020 Objective HDS-6. Available from: www.healthypeople.gov/2020/topicsobjectives2020/objectiveslist.aspx?topicId=21