During the pandemic, many put off their regular doctors’ visits. If that’s you, this is your sign to make an appointment to check in on your overall health.
September is Cholesterol Education Month. Cholesterol is found in all parts of the body and we need cholesterol to build healthy cells, hormones, and Vitamin D. The liver makes most of the cholesterol the body needs to function, but it is also in foods such as dairy, meat, poultry, and seafood.
Too much cholesterol, especially the “bad” type can lead to an elevated risk of heart disease and stroke. We talked with Dr. Annie Moore from CU Medicine Internal Medicine Cherry Creek about cholesterol and how better lifestyle choices can protect our heart health.
Types of Cholesterol:
LDL cholesterol: Considered the “bad” cholesterol, because it can contribute to fatty buildup in the arteries (atherosclerosis) – a condition that causes narrowing of the arteries. An elevated LDL level over time is a risk factor for heart attack and stroke. Dr. Moore says it’s good to keep this number under 100.
HDL cholesterol: The “good” cholesterol. In the case of HDL cholesterol, the higher the levels the better. Dr. Moore says a number higher than 50 or 60 is ideal. A healthy HDL cholesterol level may help protect against heart attack and stroke.
Triglycerides: Are the most common type of fat in the body and are used for energy. Elevated levels combined with high LDL (bad) cholesterol or low HDL (good) cholesterol also increases the risk of heart attack and stroke. Elevated triglyceride levels not only come from foods that contain saturated and trans fats but can also be a result of certain health conditions such as hypothyroidism, kidney or liver disease, and diabetes.
High cholesterol levels have no symptoms and a blood test is the only way to know what your numbers are.
Who is at risk for high cholesterol?
- Those with a family history of high cholesterol or heart disease
- Eating a diet high in saturated fat found in some processed foods, high-fat meats or dairy
- Being overweight or obese
- Being inactive/not getting enough exercise
- Increased age
- Having diabetes
Heart-healthy lifestyle changes that lower your cholesterol can help prevent high cholesterol in the first place. To help prevent high cholesterol, you can:
- Eat a diet that emphasizes fruits, vegetables, and whole grains
- Limit the number of animal fats and other sources of saturated fat
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Don’t smoke
- Stay active
- Drink alcohol in moderation, if at all
- Manage stress
Click/tap here to find an internal medicine provider or click/tap here for a family medicine doctor that can help you know your numbers, get a baseline on your overall health, and help you come up with a lifestyle changes that will help you lead a healthier life.