Monday, October 22, 2012

Cholesterol - More Than a Number

When you think about cholesterol, what comes to mind? Is it a big, juicy cheeseburger with crispy bacon and all the fixings? Is it the thought that only your parents and older relatives have to worry about cholesterol? Is it a guilty feeling in the pit of your stomach that reminds you to pay more attention to your own cholesterol?

As yummy as this looks, it can raise
cholesterol levels.
Here is one way to think about cholesterol. Imagine you had some delicious fried food for supper, and you’ve decided to pour the grease and leftover oil from the frying pan down the drain. As you might already guess, this probably isn’t the best way to dispose of the grease. If you don’t run the hot water while pouring it down the drain, you might end up with a pretty nasty clog the next time you go to use your kitchen sink. Cholesterol impacts our arteries in much the same way, except, our bodies don’t have a natural way to flush out the buildup on the walls of our arteries.

When cholesterol builds up on our artery walls, the heart receives smaller amounts of blood and oxygen. This raises our risk of heart attack and stroke. Removing this plaque from the walls of our arteries is not as simple as turning on the hot water, unfortunately. Cholesterol medication might be necessary if your arteries are showing signs of plaque buildup from having high cholesterol. Surgery to remove the plaque, caused by cholesterol buildup, is also a possibility.

Why Your Cholesterol Numbers Matter

Your cholesterol levels are more than just numbers we need to check from time to time. Our overall health is directly tied to cholesterol numbers, specifically as risk factors for serious health conditions such as heart disease and stroke. Keeping cholesterol at healthy levels prevents irreparable damage so often seen by patients suffering from heart failure, coronary artery disease, and stroke. Doesn’t it make more sense to prevent the problem rather than deal with a major health issue for the rest of your life?

Knowing your cholesterol numbers can help you live a healthier life rather than being surprised at your levels in the future. The American Heart Association encourages all adults of 20 years and up to get a fasting lipoprotein profile once every five years to check total cholesterol, ldl (bad cholesterol), hdl (good cholesterol), and triglycerides. This cholesterol test requires that you do not eat, drink, or take pills for a period of  nine to twelve hours. If you decide to have this test done, be sure to consult your physician if you have any cause for concern about the fast, for example, if you take medication on a daily basis.

High ldl cholesterol is considered a risk factor we can control, since we determine our own diets and lifestyles. See our previous article, Cholesterol - Know Your Numbers, for information about healthy levels. The risks associated with high cholesterol become even greater if you have other major risk factors, such as high blood pressure or diabetes. Arteries can become clogged with plaque, narrowing the vessels and potentially restricting the flow of blood and oxygen to the heart. Also, bits of the plaque can break off and get into the bloodstream, causing a heart attack or a stroke.

According to the Texas Heart Institute, stroke is the number three killer of Americans, with someone dying from a stroke every four minutes. Sometimes strokes may not be fatal, but they can be truly debilitating, leaving many patients disabled. One of the top risk factors for stroke is a high level of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (ldl cholesterol), and triglycerides, in the blood.

Cholesterol Medication 

As people get older, cholesterol medication may become a part of daily life. Statins are a common drug designed to lower cholesterol in order to prevent or treat cardiovascular disease. WebMd reports that statins, while not entirely free of side effects, prove to be very safe in the majority of patients receiving this type of therapy. If you are in doubt about your own cholesterol situation, make an appointment and review your options with your doctor.

If your doctor does prescribe medication to lower your cholesterol, remember that FamilyWize can help you lower the cost of prescriptions while you lower your bad cholesterol. Download the free discount prescription card and start saving today.

How a Healthy Diet Can Help

low cholesterol
Fried foods can raise ldl cholesterol.
Our heart health is a vital consideration when it comes to diet. Consuming fast food all the time, and eating other foods high in cholesterol, negatively impacts our health in a big way. We should try to avoid a diet high in saturated fat as much as possible, while also watching other foods that are high in dietary cholesterol. Eggs, shrimp, liver, and duck are high in dietary cholesterol, so it may pay to monitor your diet for a healthy heart.

Did you know your morning cup of coffee may have a connection to your cholesterol? The Harvard School of Public Health reports that unfiltered coffee contains cafestol, which has been shown to stimulate LDL cholesterol levels. Drinking filtered coffee should shield you from this substance, but other methods of coffee brewing, such as French press and boiling the coffee, may not separate this element from your beverage.

dietary cholesterol
Low cholesterol foods helps maintain
normal cholesterol levels.
According to the University of Florida, some types of fiber can remove cholesterol from the body, helping to battle high cholesterol levels. Oatmeal, oat bran, fish and Omega 3s, nuts like walnuts and almonds, and olive oil are a few examples of foods that can positively impact your cholesterol, according to Check with your family physician for additional foods that can help you improve your diet and your cholesterol.

Strive for low cholesterol in your diet and normal cholesterol levels whenever you get your numbers checked. Don’t forget the benefits of regular exercise, as well. If you are able to maintain a healthy diet and lifestyle now, your body will repay you for it as you get older. Do you do anything special to impact your cholesterol levels? Please share your experiences in our comments below.

Kathryn M. D'Imperio 
Contributing Writer

1 comment:

  1. Excellent blog very nice and unique information related to Cholesterol. Thanks for sharing this information.