Key Factors in Prevention of High
Cholesterol and Heart Disease
High blood cholesterol affects over 65 million Americans. It is a serious condition that increases your risk for heart disease. You may have high cholesterol and not know it. Lowering cholesterol levels that are too high lessens your risk for developing heart disease and reduces the chance of having a heart attack or dying of heart disease. The first step in prevention of high cholesterol and heart disease is becoming educated about this condition and its risk factors.
Did you know that, your body makes nearly all the cholesterol it needs all on its own and it is not necessary to take in additional cholesterol from the foods you eat? Therefore, when we eat foods high in cholesterol we may be contributing to excessive amounts depending on our body chemistry- how quickly your body makes LDL ("bad") cholesterol and disposes of it.
Cholesterol is a waxy, fatty substance found in the blood. Cholesterol is also present in every cell in the body including the brain, nerves, muscles, skin, liver, intestines, and heart.
Cholesterol is necessary to support many bodily functions. The body uses cholesterol for hormone and vitamin D production. The body also uses cholesterol to produce acids that help digest fat. Moreover, cholesterol is an essential component of our individual cell membranes.
The National Cholesterol Education Program, launched by The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI),suggest that everyone 20 years of age and older should have their blood cholesterol level measured at least once every 5 years.
According to NHLBI,many factors help determine whether your LDL-cholesterol level is high or low. The following factors are the most important:
Weight. Excess weight tends to increase your LDL ("bad") cholesterol level. If you are overweight and have a high LDL-cholesterol level, losing weight may help you lower it. Weight loss also helps to lower triglycerides and raise HDL ("good") cholesterol levels.
Heredity. Your genes influence how high your LDL ("bad") cholesterol is by affecting how fast LDL is made and removed from the blood.
What you eat. Three main nutrients in the foods you eat make your LDL ("bad") cholesterol level rise: saturated fat, a type of fat found mostly in foods that come from animals; Trans fat, found mostly in foods made with hydrogenated oils such as margarine, crackers, french fries etc. This is a man made fat; and finally cholesterol, which comes only from animal products. Saturated fat raises your LDL-cholesterol level more than anything else in the diet. Yet eating too much saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol is the main reason for high levels of cholesterol and a high rate of heart attacks in the United States. Reducing the amount of these fats and cholesterol you eat is a very important step in reducing your blood cholesterol levels.
Physical activity/exercise.Regular physical activity may lower LDL ("bad") cholesterol and raise HDL ("good") cholesterol levels.
Age and sex. Before the age of menopause, women usually have total cholesterol levels that are lower than those of men the same age. As women and men get older, their blood cholesterol levels rise until about 60 to 65 years of age. After the age of about 50, women often have higher total cholesterol levels than men of the same age.
September is National Cholesterol Education Month, “Now is the best time to get your blood cholesterol checked and take steps to lower it if it is high.”, said Vickie Stubits, RN with Bayshore Home Care. National Cholesterol Education Month is also a good time to learn about lipid profiles and about food and lifestyle choices that help you reach personal cholesterol goals. Visit the NHLBI website today to learn more.
information provided in part by:
"National Cholesterol Education Month - September - Cholesterol Information Produced by Doctors For Patients Experiencing High Cholesterol Levels." MedicineNet. N.p., 1 Feb. 2005. Web. 18 Sept. 2012. <http://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=14638>.