4 Ways You Can Start Today to Manage and Lower High Cholesterol
High cholesterol is a chronic condition that affects almost ⅓ of all adults in the United States. Yet many individuals live without testing their cholesterol levels or continue with unhealthy habits that may cause serious and sometimes dangerous complications.
Keep in mind, though, that not all cholesterol is bad for your body. “Bad” cholesterol, referred to as low-density lipoprotein (LDL) is a substance similar to fat that builds up inside a patient’s arteries, restricting blood flow. But “good” cholesterol, or high-density lipoprotein (HDL), takes that LDL cholesterol back to the liver where it can be absorbed or removed from your system instead of blocking arteries.
Your body naturally creates HDL and LDL, but it won’t be able to remove large amounts of LDL you may be producing by eating fatty foods and living a sedentary lifestyle. This is what we refer to as high cholesterol, when high levels of LDL cholesterol are found in your bloodstream and pose a potential threat to your health.
Luckily, high cholesterol can be managed and kept under control with the right course of action. But first, is it possible that you may be at risk for this condition?
Are You at Risk for High Cholesterol?
Even individuals living a relatively healthy lifestyle could still be at risk for high cholesterol. Many factors go into a high cholesterol diagnosis, including:
- Obesity: Living above your recommended weight has been proven to increase LDL cholesterol and lower HDL cholesterol. Factors that lead to obesity such as a diet full of trans and saturated fats and little to no physical activity also contribute to developing high cholesterol.
- Certain Health Conditions: Patients with Type 2 Diabetes are more likely to develop high cholesterol as are patients with familial hypercholesterolemia (FH) as both conditions can raise LDL cholesterol levels.
- Family Medical History: If you have parents, grandparents or other family members with a history of high cholesterol, your chances of developing it are greatly increased.
- Smoking: Among the health conditions that can stem from years of smoking are weakened artery walls that might give place for more LDL cholesterol to build up.
- Age: The older we get, the less our bodies are able to dispose of LDL cholesterol on their own thus increasing the risk of high cholesterol among patients 55 years old or older.
If you are at risk for high cholesterol, be sure to meet with your family physician about creating a prevention plan to lower your risk where possible.
When High Cholesterol Becomes Dangerous
Why is high cholesterol such a cause for concern? Narrowed or blocked arteries resulting from high cholesterol can lead to cardiovascular problems, sometimes even heart attacks and strokes, the leading causes of death in the U.S.
Many patients may be living with high cholesterol and not even know it. The scary thing about this condition is its apparent lack of symptoms, which is why our family clinic in St. George, UT recommends adults over 20 years old being tested for high cholesterol every 4-6 years. However, this amount may increase as patients get older and if they exhibit greater risk factors of high cholesterol.
Having a regular preventative wellness exam with your local family practice physician will allow your doctor to monitor your risk factors and test for high cholesterol as often as you need. This kind of frequent care also helps to identify any problems sooner so you can begin managing your cholesterol.
With the risk involved with high cholesterol, managing this condition becomes even more important to keep blood flowing through your system as it should.
Ways to Keep Your Cholesterol in Check
Because high cholesterol is a chronic condition, it doesn’t come with a one-and-done treatment. Your constant care is required to keep symptoms under control and to reduce your risk of a heart attack or stroke. Making simple lifestyle changes can have huge impacts on improving your cholesterol.
Talk with your family practice doctor about which of the following suggestions may best help manage and lower high cholesterol:
- Diet: Perhaps the best course of action is adopting a heart-healthy diet. Avoid high cholesterol foods with saturated fats like whole milk products and fatty meats. Foods with trans fats should also be avoided, including large amounts of fried food or baked goods. Instead, try to center your diet around low-fat food groups like fish, fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Gradually substitute new foods into your diet that reduce your daily intake of saturated and trans fats.
- Choose More High-Fiber Foods and Unsaturated Fats: As part of your new diet, make sure to include foods that increase good HDL cholesterol. These include foods like oatmeal and types of beans with large amounts of fiber, as well as vegetable oils, avocados and other foods with unsaturated fats.
- Exercise: Regularly exercise, even if you only start with light exercises to begin with. Take a walk on your lunch break, choose to park a little farther away, take the stairs over the elevator—making little habits like these may not dramatically decrease your weight and risk of high cholesterol, but they are a great place to start. From there you can pick up more aerobic exercises like swimming, biking or jogging that you feel most comfortable with. Shoot for 2 ½ hours of exercise every week.
- Visit a Family Practice Physician: Family practice doctors like those at Callahan Clinic can help you create a holistic treatment plan to manage cholesterol in the best way for you. Work with them to come up with a diet and exercise program, or for help to quit smoking if this is another factor increasing your risk of high cholesterol.
Get tested today for high cholesterol or speak with a family practice doctor near you to discuss your risk of developing high cholesterol and how to better manage it. Individuals in Southern Utah can visit Callahan Clinic’s same-day clinic for the care they need to get a handle on high cholesterol and other chronic conditions. Contact our friendly staff today to set up an appointment!