Be Heart Healthy

Be Heart Healthy

People of all ages, children to older adults, can have high cholesterol.  With September being National Cholesterol Education Month, this is the perfect time to schedule an appointment a blood cholesterol screening.  Read more about what cholesterol is, how to determine your cholesterol levels and how to reach your personal cholesterol goals.

What is Cholesterol

Cholesterol, a waxy, fat-like substance, is naturally produced by your body’s liver, but is also commonly found in many of the foods that you consume.  You need cholesterol for your bodies to function, but when you have too much, it can build up in your arteries and put you at risk for heart disease and stroke.

Determining Cholesterol Levels

Many people don’t know they have high cholesterol since there are usually no symptoms.  Your family physician can take a blood sample and offer advice for lifestyle changes, or potentially prescribe medication to help lower high cholesterol levels.  With heart disease as the main cause of death in the United States, cholesterol checks are important to schedule regularly.  It is recommended that adults over the age of 20 should have their cholesterol checked every five years.  Those with a family history of high cholesterol, obesity and heart disease, or individuals who smoke, have high blood pressure or who have diabetes have a greater overall risk and should be screened on a regular basis.

Cholesterol Levels

A blood test measures the total levels of cholesterol, including LDL (low-density lipoprotein, “bad” cholesterol), HDL (high-density lipoprotein, “good” cholesterol) and triglycerides.  Total cholesterol levels should be less than 170 mg/DL, with LDL less than 110 mg/DL, HDL 35 mg/dL or higher, and triglycerides less than 150 mg/dL.

Children and adolescence can develop high cholesterol, in fact, more than 20% of youth, have abnormal lipid levels.  Inactivity and unhealthy diets can attribute to these elevated levels.  If there is a history of heart disease, diabetes or high blood pressure, a proactive approach to screen for high cholesterol may prevent future issues.

How to Lower Cholesterol

Changing lifestyle behaviors and making healthy choices can help to lower or prevent high cholesterol.

  • Eat low-fat, high-fiber diets, including fresh foods and whole grains
  • Exercise each week – 2 ½ hours of moderate activity, or 1 ½ hours of vigorous activity
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Don’t smoke, quit if you currently do smoke
  • When needed, your physician may prescribe medication

There are some things that you cannot control when it comes to high cholesterol, such as your age or family history, but taking a proactive approach by changing the things you can control just might help to lower your risk.  Talk to your family physician today and schedule your appointment to have your blood cholesterol levels checked and make a conscious effort to be heart healthy.

We thank the Centers for Disease Control for the information in this article.  Information provided by Sarah Bradley, Marketing Specialist, Madison County Health Care System, (515) 462-2373,

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