Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance found in everyone, no matter the age. Your body needs cholesterol to function correctly but too much can build up in your arteries, placing you at risk for heart disease or stroke. There are many different things that can cause high cholesterol including, family history, diet, low activity level, and smoking. It is difficult to know if your cholesterol is too high because there usually aren’t any symptoms. For that reason, it is recommended to get a simple blood test to make sure your levels are where they are supposed to be. Getting screened every 5 years is recommended, with screening more often if you are at higher risk.
When you receive a cholesterol test you will receive several numbers back including total cholesterol, LDL (“bad” cholesterol), HDL (“good” cholesterol), and triglycerides. Each of these readings has a recommended level which can be dependent on your medical history or current chronic conditions. It is important to talk with your health care practitioner about where your numbers should be.
There are some things you can do to help lower your cholesterol or prevent it from getting high in the first place:
- Eat low fat and high fiber foods – Increasing your daily intake of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains can help with this
- Incorporate moderate physical activity into your schedule – try to get 150 minutes of physical activity in a week
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Avoid smoking
However, sometimes even when we make the above lifestyle changes cholesterol can remain too high. There are medications available to help get your cholesterol in the desired range. Some additional prevention strategies such as taking a baby aspirin may also be recommended to reduce your risk of heart disease. Talk with your health care practitioner to find out the best treatment plan for you.
For more information, visit: https://www.cdc.gov/cholesterol/cholesterol_education_month.htm