September is National High Cholesterol Education Month!
According to the CDC (or Center for Disease Control and Prevention), 71 million adults suffer from high cholesterol and only one third of them have the condition under control. To make matters even worse, high cholesterol, like high blood pressure raises the likelihood of life-threatening conditions such as heart disease and stroke; two of the leading causes of death in the United States. It’s important to keep yourself educated on the causes and treatment of high cholesterol to keep you and your family safe from further issues.
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 and form blockages. This can lead to heart disease, heart attack, and stroke.
There are two kinds of cholesterol: high-density lipoprotein (HDL) and low-density lipoprotein (LDL). HDL is also called “good” cholesterol. LDL is called “bad” cholesterol. When we talk about high cholesterol, we are talking about “bad” LDL cholesterol.
High Cholesterol doesn’t have symptoms, so it’s important to get yourself checked before it becomes a problem. Screening for the levels of LDL in your body is easy and can be done with just a simple blood test. The National Cholesterol Education Program recommends that adults aged 20 years or older have their cholesterol checked every 5 years.
If any of the following applies to you, you should be getting your cholesterol checked more often:
-Your total cholesterol is 200 mg/dL or higher.
-You are a man older than age 45 or a woman older than age 50.
-Your HDL cholesterol is lower than 40 mg/dL.
-You have other risk factors for heart disease and stroke.
Prevention and Treatment
Luckily for most people, preventing and treating high cholesterol is an easy process of making lifestyle changes to promote healthier living. A high fiber diet can help to lower cholestrol so pay attention to that on the label. Whole grains are good options, and many breakfast cereals offer heart-healthy options that might appeal to you. Avoiding saturated fats and transfats can also help your cholesterol levels. Polyunsaturated fats, on the other hand, offer cholesterol-lowering properties. Here are some more CDC recommended options for avoiding high blood pressure:
Exercising regularly. Physical activity can help lower cholesterol. The Surgeon General recommends that adults engage in moderate-intensity exercise for 2 hours and 30 minutes every week.
Maintaining a healthy weight. Being overweight or obese can raise your cholesterol levels. Losing weight can help lower your cholesterol.
Not smoking. If you smoke, quit as soon as possible.
If these methods do not help you, it may be time to discuss medications with your doctor.