Despite the dangers of high cholesterol and heart disease, many people may not fully understand the link between the two or know if they have cardiovascular risk. This September, in support of National Cholesterol Education Month and World Heart Day, Wednesday, September 29, learn more about cholesterol and how it can affect people’s health, especially seniors.
What is cholesterol?
According to the Centers for Disease Control, there are two forms of cholesterol––both are a waxy substance with a fat-like texture that is found in blood vessels. Cholesterol is a natural part of the human body, but when it builds up––otherwise known as high cholesterol––it can block bloodflow in your arteries and cause blockages. These can factor into heart disease, strokes and heart attacks. Of the two types, high-density lipoprotein, or HDL, is known as “good cholesterol.” Low-density lipoprotein, LDL, is referred to as “bad cholesterol.” LDL contributes to plaque, a thick, hard deposit that can clog arteries and make them less flexible. This can result in heart attack, stroke or peripheral artery disease.
How do I check my cholesterol levels?
Now that you know what it is, ask your doctor to run a blood test called a lipid panel to learn more about your cholesterol levels. After a quick and easy blood draw and waiting a few days, you’ll learn about your total cholesterol, LDL and HDL, and triglycerides, or fat in your blood. Why is knowing this information important? If your cholesterol is too high, you must keep track of these numbers while making an effort to reduce it.
How can I maintain healthy cholesterol?
If you’ve been to the doctor and learned that you need to reduce your cholesterol levels, there are several things you can do. First, you will likely be told that you should change your diet. Eating foods that are high in fat, like hamburgers and fast foods, are not good for your heart. Instead, eat fresh produce and lean proteins. You can also increase your omega-3 intake. This healthy fat is found in walnuts, flaxseeds, almonds and salmon––all of these healthy foods are great solo or on salads and included in a full meal.
Next, establish a regular exercise routine. The Mayo Clinic shared that being physically active for just 10 minutes every day a few times a week can improve weight loss and raise HDL or good cholesterol. You can walk around the block a few times, go for a swim, ride your bike or join a community sport league. There are many ways to get active––you’re sure to find one that interests you!
If you smoke, consider quitting. This can help your cholesterol by making it easier for your heart to beat and reducing your overall blood pressure. This means the blood is moving through your veins at a slower rate, and you’ll be less likely to have a stroke or other cardiac issue related to cholesterol blockages. It is easier to exercise when you can breathe better, and quitting smoking is a great way to get there.
Some people find that lifestyle changes like those above aren’t enough to improve their cholesterol levels. If this explains you, ask your doctor to recommend medication that will assist in reducing buildup in their blood vessels. Combining prescriptions with eating better and exercising can make a big difference in your cholesterol and overall health.
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