According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), heart disease is the number one leading cause of death in the U.S. More than one million Americans have a heart attack each year and about 500,000 die of heart disease. High blood cholesterol is one of the major risk factors for heart disease, which causes heart attacks and strokes.
What is Cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a fat-like substance in the blood and when there is too much in the bloodstream it builds up in the artery walls. There are two types of cholesterol: High-Density Lipoprotein (HDL) also known as the good cholesterol, and then there is the “bad” cholesterol Low-Density Lipoprotein (LDL). The body produces cholesterol primarily through the liver, but the rest come from the foods we eat. Over time, the build-up can create a narrow blood flow to the heart and a potential blockage which can be fatal.
A diet filled with highly saturated and trans-fat foods will cause the liver to produce more cholesterol than it normally would. Therefore, it is important to be mindful of the foods we put into the body. Foods such as meat, poultry, dairy products, and tropical oils should be eaten in moderation. Other factors which can affect cholesterol levels are inactivity, smoking, obesity, age, and family history.
How Do We Test Cholesterol?
Cholesterol levels are checked through a “fasting lipoprotein profile” blood test. The test is broken down into four measurements: Total Cholesterol (Desirable to be less than 200 *mg/dL), Triglycerides (Desirable to be less than 150 *mg/Dl), LDL (Desirable to have a level lower than 100 *mg/ dL), and HDL (Desirable to have a level greater than 60 *mg/dL).
*Milligrams (mg) of cholesterol per deciliter (dL) of blood.
The goal is to have lower LDL levels and higher HDL to have reduced chances of heart disease. The American Heart Association recommends all adults start regular cholesterol screenings at the age of 20. According to the CDC, 71 million Americans have high LDL cholesterol and do not even know about it because they have no symptoms.
How Do We Treat High Cholesterol?
Treatment will be recommended by your trusted physician based on an individual’s risk category. Minor changes such as diet and physical activity may be enough for some while others need a weight management program or a regiment of prescribed medications that can disrupt the production of cholesterol and stop plaque formation inside the artery.
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