National Cholesterol Education Month

September is National Cholesterol Education Month! This a great time to get your cholesterol levels checked and take the necessary steps to lower it if it is too high. This is a great opportunity to take some time and learn about lipid profiles and about food and lifestyle choices that help you reach personal cholesterol goals.


High blood cholesterol is a serious condition that increases your risk for heart disease. So it is important to understand that the higher your cholesterol level, the greater the risk you are at. And high cholesterol isn’t always very obvious. It is possible to have high cholesterol and not even know it. Lowering cholesterol levels that are too high lessen your risk for developing heart disease and reduce the chance of having a heart attack or dying from heart disease.


Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance found in your body and many foods. Your body needs it to work properly, but your body makes all that you need. Depending on your diet, lifestyle and your body’s ability to break down cholesterol, it is possible for too much cholesterol to accumulate in your body. Extra cholesterol builds up in your arteries. Over time, cholesterol deposits, called plaque, can narrow your arteries and allow less and less blood to pass through them.


A heart attack occurs when plaque totally blocks an artery carrying blood to the heart. It also can happen when a plaque deposit ruptures and causes a clot in a coronary artery. Chest pain, also called angina, can be caused by plaque partially blocking a coronary artery, reducing blood flow to the heart. If you experience chest pain be sure to talk with your primary care physician.


Not all cholesterol is bad though. There are two types of cholesterol; low-density lipoproteins (LDL) and high-density lipoproteins (HDL). Low-density lipoproteins are known as the “bad” type of cholesterol. And high levels of LDL can lead to a build up of plaque in the arteries and cause a heart attack. High-density lipoproteins is known as the “good” type of cholesterol because it absorbs cholesterol and brings it to the liver and is then flushed out of the body. Ideally you want to have a LDL level of less than 100mg/dL and your HDL to be more than 40mg/dL as well as less than 150mg/dL of triglycerides.


If you are unsure of what your cholesterol levels are at, be sure to see your doctor and check. The first step to having good cholesterol is knowing what your choleserol levels are.


A few ways you can lower your cholesterol are: eating a healthy and well balanced diet, losing weight, maintaining a healthy weight, exercising regularly and quit smoking. For some people it may be necessary to take medication to help control their cholesterol. Be sure to talk with your doctor before starting any exercise regimine or taking any medications.

Sources:
US Department of Health and Human Services.
National Heart Lung and Blood Institute. http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/about/ncep/.

Center for Disease Control. http://www.cdc.gov

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