Cholesterol is waxy substance found in every cell of your body. It has important natural functions when it comes to digesting foods, producing hormones, and generating vitamin D. It is made naturally by the body but can also be taken in from animal-derived foods.
There are two types of cholesterol; LDL (low-density lipoproteins, or “bad” cholesterol) and HDL (high-density lipoproteins, or “good” cholesterol). Your body needs some cholesterol, but it can build up on the walls of your arteries and lead to heart disease and stroke when you have too much in your blood.
There are more than 73 million adults in the US with high LDL, but unfortunately, less than half of them are getting treatment to lower their levels, and only 30% have the condition under control.
The best plan for prevention is to work closely with your primary care physician to assess your risk factors. Does high cholesterol run in your family? Are you a smoker? Do you eat a lot of red meat and dairy products? Once your risk factors have been assessed, a proper health care plan can be created.
To determine if you have high cholesterol, a fasting blood screen called a lipoprotein panel can measure your cholesterol levels and be used to diagnose a high cholesterol condition. The chart below provides a guide to optimal, intermediate and high cholesterol ranges.
High cholesterol can be managed and even reversed through a combination of treatments including medication (statins or cholesterol medications), a healthy, low-fat diet, and physical exercise.
What Can You Do About It?
When changing your diet, the best offense is a good defense. What shouldn’t you be eating? The American Heart Association recommends limiting saturated fat to 5 to 6 percent of total daily calories. Limiting dairy, red meat, sugary foods and beverages can help lower your cholesterol levels. A healthy diet of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, poultry, fish and nuts is recommended. When you eat healthier, it will likely increase your fiber intake which can help lower cholesterol levels by 10 percent or more.
When you are physically inactive, your HDL or “good” cholesterol is lowered. This means there is less “good” cholesterol to remove the LDL or “bad” cholesterol from arteries. Just 40 minutes of aerobic exercise three or four times a week can help your body move some of that “bad” cholesterol from your heart. Also, losing weight can improve cholesterol levels.
As you age, the development of chronic conditions and illness increase — as does the need for individualized care. A sustained relationship with a primary care doctor becomes more important.
The doctors at NorthShore Primary Care take the time to meet and get to know each patient. To make an appointment, call the Amherst office at 440-455-3090 or the Avon office at 440-653-8091. Learn more at www.northshorehealthcare.com.