Studies show that high cholesterol puts you at an increased risk for heart disease and stroke. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an estimated 38% of American adults have high cholesterol. That means high cholesterol is a big contributor to those leading causes of death in the United States.
What Is Cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a fat-like substance that helps the body make healthy cells, hormones and vitamins. Although your liver produces all of the cholesterol your body needs, cholesterol also comes from food sources.
Cholesterol and other fats travel through your bloodstream as lipoproteins. The two most common lipoproteins are high-density lipoproteins (HDL) and low-density lipoproteins (LDL). HDL is known as the “good” cholesterol, as it actually lowers your risk for heart disease. LDL is considered the “bad” cholesterol because high levels can lead to plaque buildup in your arteries. Narrowed or blocked arteries are a big risk factor for heart attack and stroke.
Triglycerides are another type of fat found in your bloodstream. High levels of triglycerides can also increase your risk for heart disease.
Healthy levels are as follows:
- LDL below 100 mg/dL
- HDL of 60 mg/dL or higher
- Total cholesterol under 200 mg/dL
- Triglycerides at 150 mg/dL or less
What Are The Symptoms Of High Cholesterol?
High cholesterol does not typically cause any symptoms. The only way to know if you have high cholesterol is to have your levels measured through a simple blood test called a lipid profile.
Risk Factors For High Cholesterol
The major factors that can increase your risk of developing high cholesterol include:
- Type 2 diabetes
- Familial hypercholesterolemia
- Family history of high cholesterol
- A diet high in saturated fats and/or trans fats
- Sedentary lifestyle
When Should I Have My Cholesterol Tested?
Cholesterol levels should be checked every 5 years starting at age 20 for those with low risk for high cholesterol. People with elevated risk will require more frequent screening. A lipid profile blood test will check your levels of:
- Total Cholesterol
You may need to fast for up to 12 hours before your test.
Tips For Reducing Cholesterol Levels
Reducing cholesterol levels is possible with a heart-healthy lifestyle. This includes:
- Eating a diet low in saturated fats. This means minimizing consumption of red meat, processed meat, fried foods, baked goods and full-fat dairy products.
- Avoiding trans fats, which are partially hydrogenated vegetable oils found in many processed foods.
- Increasing soluble fiber intake by eating more vegetables and whole-grains.
- Consuming foods high in omega-3 fatty acids, such as fish, fish oil, flaxseed and nuts.
- Stopping smoking if you are a smoker.
- Drinking alcohol in moderation or not at all.
- Staying physically active by avoiding a sedentary lifestyle and including exercise in your daily routine.
- Maintaining a healthy weight or losing weight if you are overweight.
If you haven’t had your cholesterol levels checked recently, consider making an appointment for a checkup. It might save your life.
The team at Advanced Cardiovascular Specialists consists of North Louisiana’s leading experts in cardiovascular care. For more information or to schedule an appointment, please call our office at (318) 798-9400.