Heart disease is the number one killer of women in the U.S.—and while coronary problems are often associated with old age, contributing factors can start much earlier in life. One key cause: high levels of "bad" cholesterol, a.k.a. LDL cholesterol (low-density lipoprotein). Here's how it works: When people eat foods high in cholesterol, and also foods with trans and saturated fats (think something along the lines of white, "waxy" fats), LDL gets absorbed into the blood vessels. All this extra fat can eventually end up in the artery walls, causing heart problems and even a stroke. Here's how to take action now for optimal heart health so you can prevent coronary heart disease later.
KNOWING THE BASICS
Here's a scary fact: A study conducted by GfK Custom Research North America found that almost 75 percent of women ages 18 to 44 didn't know the difference between "good" cholesterol, or HDL (high-density lipoprotein), and LDL. Bad cholesterol can build up in the blood due to eating fatty foods, not exercising enough and/or in response to other health problems, forming plaque in the arteries. On the other hand, the body actually needs HDL to protect the heart and move LDL from the liver and arteries. In men and women, cholesterol can typically be controlled with a healthy diet and exercise—although sometimes prescription drugs are necessary.