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Test Your Cholesterol IQ

What’s fact and what’s fiction about cholesterol? Take our quiz to find out!
By
WebMD Magazine

You hear a lot about cholesterol, and you know there’s a bad kind and a good kind. But beyond that, do you know fact from fiction? Take this quiz to learn about some common cholesterol misconceptions, and get ready to improve the state of your heart.

1. The more anxiety and stress you have in your life, the more they can negatively affect your cardiovascular system, including your cholesterol levels.

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While more research is needed to connect stress to a healthy -- or unhealthy -- heart, an indirect connection makes this statement a fact: The more stressed out you are, the more likely you are to overeat and choose unhealthy foods. Both can raise cholesterol levels.

2. A food product marked “low cholesterol” must be good for you, right?

This one is a bit of fact and fiction. The FDA requires that any food product labeled “low cholesterol” must have less than 20 mg of cholesterol per serving and 2 grams or less of saturated fat. But if you’re not keeping an eye on what you eat, those amounts of cholesterol and saturated fat can add up. The American Heart Association (AHA) says people with heart disease should limit their daily intake to less than 200 mg of low-cholesterol foods (300 mg for those with high cholesterol and no heart disease).

3. If you eat healthy foods, don’t drink, and don’t smoke, you can skip exercise to keep your cholesterol levels down.

Total fiction. Doing nothing puts you at risk, since physical inactivity is a risk factor for heart disease. The AHA recommends getting at least 30 minutes of physical activity a day. Pressed for time? It’s OK to break your exercise into 10- or 15-minute sessions. The important thing is just to do it.

4. It doesn’t matter what you buy at the grocery store -- all food is bad for you when it comes to cholesterol.

This is food fiction. If you steer your cart clear of certain foods and pick up plenty of others, you’ll be doing your heart a favor. These foods should top your grocery list: oatmeal, salmon and tuna, nuts, low-fat dairy products, vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and foods fortified with plant sterols. All help lower your LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels and improve your overall numbers. In fact, a meal plan combining these foods might be as effective at managing your cholesterol as medication.

5. Kids don’t have to worry about high cholesterol; only adults do.

Fiction again. Since plaque buildup in blood vessel walls can begin in childhood, the AHA recommends children with a family history of high cholesterol or early heart disease be screened for high cholesterol as young as age 2. In addition, children considered overweight or obese should be screened. Being active and eating healthy foods can help; kids should be encouraged to exercise 30 to 60 minutes at least four days a week and given at least five servings of fruits and vegetables daily. Even if you don’t have a family history of heart disease, the AHA recommends all individuals age 20 years and up have their cholesterol levels measured at least once every five years.   

Reviewed on April 24, 2009

Is This Normal? Get the Facts Fast!

Is Your Cholesterol Level Heart Healthy?
What is your LDL (low-density lipoprotein) level?

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or
Answer:
Desirable
0-199
Borderline
200-239
High
240+

Your level is currently

Congratulations! Your total cholesterol level is in the Desirable range, and your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is optimal.

Congratulations! Your total cholesterol level is in the Desirable range, and your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is near optimal.

Your total cholesterol level is in the Desirable range, but your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is borderline high. If your LDL goes higher, your total cholesterol level could become Borderline High. Consider reducing the amount of foods you eat with saturated fats and increasing physical activity. If you get more exercise, your level of "good" HDL cholesterol may increase, which could also help to keep your levels of LDL and total cholesterol in check.

Your total cholesterol level is in the Desirable range, but your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is High. This may mean that your level of high-density lipoprotein (HDL), or "good" cholesterol, is too low. It is best to have a high level of "good" HDL and a low level of "bad" LDL. The HDL helps keep your LDL level in check. Ask your doctor for your HDL level. If your HDL is low, increasing your physical activity can increase it, which may help reduce your LDL level.

Your total cholesterol level is in the Desirable range, but your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is Very High. This may mean that your level of high-density lipoprotein (HDL), or "good" cholesterol, is too low. It is best to have a high level of "good" HDL and a low level of "bad" LDL because the HDL helps keep your LDL level in check. Ask your doctor for your HDL level. If your HDL is low, increasing your physical activity can increase it, which may help reduce your LDL level.

Your total cholesterol level is Borderline High, but fortunately your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is optimal. This could mean you have a high level of high-density lipoprotein, or "good" HDL cholesterol, which protects against heart disease. Or you could have other non-measured increases in LDL-like particles that can increase heart disease. Your LDL level also could be optimal if you are taking a statin medication. Please check with your doctor to get your complete lipid profile and see if you may need additional treatment. In the meantime, find more information on WebMD's Cholesterol Health Center.

Your total cholesterol level is Borderline High, but fortunately your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is near optimal. This could mean you have a high level of high-density lipoprotein, or "good" HDL cholesterol, which protects against heart disease. Or you could have other non-measured increases in LDL-like particles that can increase heart disease. Your LDL level also could be optimal if you are taking a statin medication. Please check with your doctor to get your complete lipid profile and see if you may need additional treatment. In the meantime, find more information on WebMD's Cholesterol Health Center.

Your total cholesterol level is Borderline High. Your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is Borderline High, too. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels!

Your total cholesterol level is Borderline High. Your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is High. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels!

Your total cholesterol level is Borderline High. But your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is Very High. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels!

Your total cholesterol is High, but your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is optimal. This could mean you have a high level of high-density lipoprotein, or "good" HDL cholesterol, which protects against heart disease. Or you could have elevated secondary lipids, such as non-HDL particles that increase the risk of heart disease. Your LDL level also could be optimal if you are taking a statin medication. Please check with your doctor to get your complete lipid profile and see if you may need additional treatment. In the meantime, find more information on WebMD's Cholesterol Health Center.

Your total cholesterol is High, but your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is near optimal. This could mean you have a high level of high-density lipoprotein, or "good" HDL cholesterol, which protects against heart disease. Or you could have elevated secondary lipids, such as non-HDL particles that increase the risk of heart disease. Your LDL level also could be optimal if you are taking a statin medication. Please check with your doctor to get your complete lipid profile and see if you may need additional treatment. In the meantime, find more information on WebMD's Cholesterol Health Center.

Your total cholesterol level is High. Your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is Borderline High. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels!

Your total cholesterol level is High. Your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is High, too. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels! If you are struggling to bring down your total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels, your doctor may prescribe medication, such as statins. Following medication, dietary, and exercise instructions should result in improvements.

Your total cholesterol level is High, and your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is Very High. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels! If you are struggling to bring down your total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels, your doctor may prescribe statins or other cholesterol-lowering medications.

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