When it comes to heart health, one important factor to pay attention to is cholesterol. High blood cholesterol is a serious condition that affects over 65 million Americans and can increase the risk of heart disease.
September is National Cholesterol Education Month, making it the perfect time to get your blood cholesterol checked and learn about the important role it plays in your health.
Let’s review a few facts.
What is cholesterol?
Cholesterol in simple terms is a waxy, fat-like substance found in your body and foods. Cholesterol at normal levels is an essential substance for the body and plays important functions when it comes to digesting foods, producing hormones, and generating vitamin D. However, at high levels, it can build up in your arteries and increasing the risk of heart disease, heart attacks, and stroke.
What is the cause of high blood cholesterol?
Your body naturally produces all the LDL cholesterol it needs. Certain lifestyle choices such as smoking, alcohol consumption, level of physical activity, and diet all play a role in determining whether your cholesterol is high or low.
Another cause of high cholesterol is consuming foods high in saturated fats, trans fats, and cholesterol. Reducing the intake of fat in the diet can help to manage cholesterol levels.
How do you know if your cholesterol is high?
Typically, a person with high cholesterol levels often has no signs or symptoms. As a result, many people do not know that their cholesterol levels are too high. Luckily, a simple blood test allows doctors to check your cholesterol.
How often should you have your cholesterol checked?
The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends that adults get their cholesterol checked at least every four to six years. Since cholesterol levels tend to rise with age, your doctor might want to test you annually, even if numbers were okay in the past.
The following chart shows optimal levels for adults 4:
Desirable Cholesterol Levels
|Total cholesterol||Less than 170 mg/dL|
|Low LDL (“bad”) cholesterol||Less than 110 mg/dL|
|High HDL (“good”) cholesterol||35 mg/dL or higher|
|Triglycerides||Less than 150 mg/dL|
If you have high cholesterol, what can you do to lower it?
If lifestyle changes aren’t enough to lower your cholesterol levels, your doctor may prescribe medications to treat your high cholesterol.
For more information on how to improve your cholesterol, take a look at the American Heart Association’s recommendation here.