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Blood Pressure Management

The 411 on Cholesterol

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that approximately one in every six adults in the United States has high blood cholesterol. Having high blood cholesterol increases the risk for heart disease.

What is cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance that is found in the body and in many foods. A body needs cholesterol to function properly. But too much of a good thing is bad. Too much cholesterol can accumulate depending on the type of foods you eat. Excess cholesterol can build up in the artery walls, and over time, the cholesterol deposits (plaque) can narrow arteries, allowing less blood to pass through. When plaque completely blocks blood from passing through an artery, a heart attack occurs.

What are the symptoms of high cholesterol?

There are no noticeable symptoms for high cholesterol, which is why many people never have their cholesterol levels checked. To test cholesterol levels requires a simple blood test. Once detected, steps can be taken to reduce cholesterol levels.

What are the different types of cholesterol?

Particles, called lipoproteins, carry cholesterol in the blood. There are two kinds of lipoproteins:

  1. Low-density lipoproteins (LDL) cholesterol – is the majority of the body’s cholesterol. Should the body have too much LDL, buildup can occur, resulting in heart disease.
  2. High-density lipoproteins (HDL) cholesterol – absorbs cholesterol, brings it back to the liver, which flushes it from the body. High levels of HDL reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke.

What are the risk factors for high cholesterol?

Risk factors for high cholesterol include:

  • Age – generally, cholesterol tends to rise as people age
  • Diabetes – having diabetes makes a person more likely to develop high cholesterol
  • Nutrition – certain foods raise cholesterol levels, including saturated fats, trans fats, dietary cholesterol and triglycerides
  • Weight – being overweight or obese can raise cholesterol levels
  • Physical inactivity – lack of exercise can result in weight gain and increased cholesterol levels
  • Heredity – high cholesterol can be an inherited genetic condition

How do you lower cholesterol levels?

The following are ways to reduce or maintain cholesterol levels:

  • Eat a healthy diet
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Exercise regularly
  • Don’t smoke cigarettes or drink alcohol
  • Have cholesterol levels checked, and treat high cholesterol

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