September is Cholesterol Education Month. Our bodies, specifically the liver, naturally produce all the cholesterol we need. Cholesterol is a substance in your blood that is similar to fat.
Consuming fatty foods causes the liver to produce more cholesterol. Too much cholesterol in your bloodstream can cause it to build up in the arteries. This build-up basically narrows the blood vessel and restricts the flow of blood to the heart. They can even become completely blocked.
High cholesterol is a high-risk factor for having a stroke or heart attack. Things that can contribute to high cholesterol are:
- Heredity – family history of high cholesterol
- Age – levels naturally increase as we grow older
- Being Overweight
The last three risk factors are somewhat linked together. During Covid, a lot of people were forced into a level of inactivity that was not natural for them. Even though the restrictions have lifted, a lot of people have not returned to their “normal” level of activity.
Too much couch time has become a habit. Binge-watching shows and not moving for hours at a time has replaced other activities that used to get us moving.
Unfortunately, along with not moving, all the hanging out on the couch encourages unhealthy snacking and eating. This all adds up to potentially high cholesterol levels.
Know Your Numbers
A test called the “fasting lipoprotein profile” will give you these numbers:
- Total Cholesterol – desirable level less than 200 mg/dL
- Triglycerides – desirable level less than 150 mg/dL
- Low-Density Lipoprotein (LDL – “bad” cholesterol) – desirable level less than 100 mg/dL
- High-Density Lipoprotein (HDL – “good” cholesterol) – a desirable level of more than 60 mg/dL
*Milligrams (mg) of cholesterol per deciliter (dL) of blood*
A high LDL level increases your risk of heart disease, while a high HDL level decreases the risk of heart disease. Since there are no symptoms associated with a high LDL level, the American Heart Association recommends all adults over the age of 20 have their cholesterol checked every 4 to 6 years.
What To Do If You Have High Cholesterol
Obviously, if you have high cholesterol, you should seek medical advice on a course of treatment. However, you can help yourself by making some changes to your diet. A mainly vegetarian diet focusing on fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and plant proteins can help to increase your intake of soluble fiber and improve your cholesterol numbers. A few foods to focus on would be:
- Oats (oatmeal, Cheerios), barley, and other whole grains.
- Eggplant and okra
- Nuts such as almonds, walnuts, and peanuts
- Vegetable oils instead of lard, butter, or shortening
- Fruits rich in pectin (apples, strawberries, grapes, citrus fruits)
- Fatty fish instead of meats and poultry
Knowing your cholesterol levels gives you the power to take control of your health and manage your lifestyle accordingly. Drop by IPE Screening today and get your baseline cholesterol level numbers so you know where you stand. Being aware of your level of risk of heart disease gives you the chance to change things before you end up in a hospital or worse.
As you work to make changes and improve your cholesterol numbers, you can drop by the office anytime you want to check your progress. Let IPE Screening be your health partner and keep you informed of your numbers. Knowledge is power. Having the power to take charge of your health and make changes is priceless.