|September is National Cholesterol Education Month, below is some information about cholesterol and the importance of cholesterol checks. High cholesterol is a serious condition that could increase a person’s risk for heart attack and stroke and in fact, it affects over 65 million Americans. So it really is a big issue.
Q: Why cholesterol is important.
A: Cholesterol is a building block of our body’s cells and travels in the blood stream. We all need some cholesterol. Many people have the right amount of cholesterol, but some people have too much. Keeping your cholesterol at a good level can help to lower your chance of having a heart attack or stroke.
Q: How does cholesterol cause heart attacks and strokes?
A: Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance. When there is too much of it in your blood, it builds up on the walls of your arteries. This build up is called plaque. Plaque can narrow your arteries and make it harder for blood to flow, which can then lead to a heart attack or stroke. Keeping cholesterol at a normal level can help to avoid these problems.
Q: So what affects cholesterol in our bodies?
A: There are risk factors that affect cholesterol that we can’t control like how old we are, what sex we are or our family history. But there are risk factors we can control like diet, weight and physical activity. You should eat a balanced diet of a variety of foods including fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. You want to avoid foods that have a lot of saturated fats, trans fats, and cholesterol. Being overweight is a risk for heart disease and it also tends to increase your cholesterol. Losing weight and regular physical activity can help lower your bad cholesterol and raise the good. It’s a good rule of thumb to try to be active for 30 minutes on most, if not each day of the week. Remember that even small changes can make a big difference.
Q: What is the difference between good and bad cholesterol? A: Bad cholesterol is known as LDL cholesterol and it is the main source of plaque buildup that narrows arteries to make it harder for blood to flow. Good cholesterol is HDL and helps remove extra cholesterol from the body. When your good cholesterol is higher it helps to protect against heart disease and stroke. To be optimal for cholesterol levels, you would want your LDL, the bad cholesterol to be less than 100 mg. Your HDL or good cholesterol should be 60 mg or higher. A good way to remember it is you want LDL Low for “L” and HDL High for “H.”
Q: How can I find out what my cholesterol levels are?
A: Having high cholesterol may or may not cause symptoms. Most people do not know they have high cholesterol unless they get tested or have a problem. We want you to avoid any problems so it is important to talk with your doctor about getting a blood test to check your cholesterol and if necessary to set up a plan to successfully manage your cholesterol. For more information about cholesterol, go to www.americanheart.org