September is National Cholesterol Education Month
- Nearly 1 in 3 American adults have high cholesterol.
- Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance found in many foods.
- High levels of cholesterol increase your risks for heart disease and stroke, two leading causes of death in the United States.
- High cholesterol has no signs or symptoms, so the only way to know if you have it is to get your cholesterol checked.
- The National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP) recommends adults over 20 years old have their cholesterol levels checked at least every five years.
The desirable cholesterol levels areas:
- Total cholesterol: Less than 200 mg/dL.
- Low Density Lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol (“bad” cholesterol): Less than 100 mg/dL.
- High Density Lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol (“good” cholesterol): 40 mg/dL or higher.
- Triglycerides: Less than 150 mg/dL.
LDL cholesterol builds up in the walls of arteries, causing “hardening of the arteries” or plaque build-up or atherosclerosis. People with atherosclerosis are predisposed to heart attack, stroke, and other problems caused by clogged arteries.
You should have a low level of LDL, the “bad” cholesterol.
On the other hand, you want to raise your “good” (HDL) cholesterol.
HDL cholesterol helps bring cholesterol from other parts of your body back to your liver—where it’s broken down and removed from your body.
Triglycerides indicate the amount of fat in your blood. The extra calories your body does not use right away from food are converted into triglycerides, which are stored in fat cells. It’s not certain whether high triglycerides alone increases your risk of heart disease, but many people with high triglycerides also have high LDL or low HDL levels, which do increase the risk of heart disease. Your triglyceride levels are therefore important for your cardiovascular health.
How to Lower High cholesterol.
High cholesterol can be controlled through lifestyle changes or at times with medications. Lifestyle changes include regular exercise, weight loss, quitting smoking and eating a diet low in saturated fats, cholesterol and trans fats. Try not to eat fatty cuts of beef and pork. Eat more chicken, turkey and fish. Drink fat-free milk instead of whole milk. Avoid other high-fat dairy foods like cheese, butter and ice cream. Avoid fried foods. Eat lots of fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
If diet and exercise does not get your cholesterol to goal, your health care provider may consider medications, the most commonly prescribed ones are called statins.
Disclaimer: The information is intended to provide general education for patients and their families. The information provided does not constitute medical or healthcare advice for any individual and is not a substitute for medical and other professional advice and service.
Dr. Mahesh Ochaney is a solo practitioner who has been practicing Internal Medicine since 1991. Dr. Ochaney’s compassionate primary care has been recognized several times over the years, including being named a 2018 Top Doctor by Baltimore Magazine and receiving a State of Maryland Governor’s Citation.