Close to 50 per cent of Canadian women between the ages of 18 and 74 have cholesterol levels that are too high.

Cholesterol is a soft, waxy substance made by our bodies. It is a vital building block of cell membranes, hormones and vitamin D. But an excess of a certain type of cholesterol (low density lipoprotein or LDL) can clog arteries and narrow the arteries that carry blood from the heart. In contrast, high density lipoprotein, or HDL cholesterol, can actually clear unhealthy LDL cholesterol out of the arteries.

Natural estrogen helps to keep cholesterol levels in a healthy range, but too many women still have high cholesterol levels in spite of this natural protection. After menopause, when estrogen levels drop, a woman’s risk profile rises significantly.

High cholesterol levels don’t produce any symptoms, so you won’t know if your cholesterol levels are putting you at risk until you have a blood test. Talk with your doctor about how often you should have your cholesterol checked, and what treatment options are available to you.

For more information and lifestyle advice on lowering your cholesterol, download the PDF booklet, Living With Cholesterol, from the Heart and Stroke Foundation website.