If you’re serious about your health, you know that eating right, exercising and not smoking are very, very important. In fact, these healthy habits are 80% effective at preventing heart disease, which is the #1 cause of death in the U.S.

One way to monitor how you’re doing health-wise is to talk to your doctor about your cholesterol levels. The American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology have recently updated their recommended guidelines for managing your cholesterol.

First of all, let’s get one thing clear; cholesterol is not a bad thing. Cholesterol is a type of fat that moves through your body is groups called lipoproteins, and your body needs it to do things like make hormones and keep your organs functioning correctly. The problem is when you have too much cholesterol.

You’ve probably heard of “good” and “bad” cholesterol. The “bad” cholesterol is referring to LDL cholesterol (low-density lipoprotein). When there’s too much of this type of cholesterol, it can build up in your arteries and prevent oxygen-carrying blood from getting to vital organs like the heart which can lead to a heart attack and stroke.

HDL cholesterol (high-density lipoprotein) is what people are talking about when they say “good” cholesterol. This type of cholesterol removes the LDL cholesterol from the arteries and takes it to the liver, which removes it from your body.

The newly released cholesterol guidelines are more aggressive than in the past. First of all, you would need to take a test to find out your current cholesterol levels and talk to your doctor about the results.

The guidelines focus on getting your LDL levels in check. The target levels are less than 100mg/dL for most people, but if you have certain risk factors, you’d be looking at a target range of less than 70mg/dL.

Once you know what your levels are, your doctor can help you develop a plan of attack. Besides diet, exercise and not smoking, the guidelines are recommending treatment with statin therapy.

Statins are drugs that can be used to lower your cholesterol. They prevent your body from making cholesterol and they help your body absorb cholesterol that has built up in your arteries. They also are considered to be low risk since serious side effects only impact 1 in 500 or 1 in 1000 people.

For more details about these new guidelines, watch the video below.

Do you know what your cholesterol levels are? What do you think of these new guidelines?