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Did you know that high cholesterol is a major risk factor for heart disease, which is the leading cause of death in the United States? In honor of National Cholesterol Education Month, learn about the dangers of high cholesterol.
Good vs. Bad Cholesterol
The two main types of cholesterol are high-density lipoprotein (HDL) and low-density lipoprotein (LDL). Lipoproteins are made of fat and proteins. Cholesterol moves through your body while inside lipoproteins.
LDL (Bad) Cholesterol: Low-density lipoprotein is known as “bad cholesterol” because it takes cholesterol to your arteries.3 Plaque buildup narrows arteries and raises the risk for heart attack, stroke and peripheral artery disease.
HDL (Good) Cholesterol: High-density lipoprotein is known as “good cholesterol” because it transports cholesterol to your liver to be expelled from your body.3 HDL can help decrease the risk of heart disease.
Causes of High Cholesterol
There are a few lifestyle factors that may cause high cholesterol. Behaviors that can negatively affect your cholesterol levels are an unhealthy diet, lack of physical activity, smoking or obesity. Unfortunately, high cholesterol usually has no symptoms. It’s important as an adult (age 20+) to get tested once every 4 to 6 years.5
Misconceptions About Cholesterol
Misconception: You don’t need your cholesterol checked until middle age.2
Fact: The American Heart Association recommends all adults 20 and older have their cholesterol checked every four to six years.2
Misconception: Thin people don’t have high cholesterol.2
Fact: While overweigh people are more likely to have high cholesterol, thin people can also be affected.2
Misconception: With medications, no lifestyle changes are needed.2
Fact: Medications can help control cholesterol levels, but diet and lifestyle changes are the best way to reduce heart disease and stroke risk.2
Misconception: If the Nutrition Facts label shows no cholesterol, the food is “heart healthy.”2
Fact: A lot of times foods that are marked as “low cholesterol” have high levels of saturated or trans-fat, which raise cholesterol.2
Treatment of High Cholesterol
Working with your health care provider can lower your cholesterol, which will reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke. Lifestyle changes such as eating a heart-healthy diet, regular exercise, avoiding tobacco and losing weight (if overweight or obese) are all things that can lower your cholesterol. However, these lifestyle changes may not work for everyone, in which case, there are many medications available. Statins are recommended for most patients, but your doctor may consider other options as well.
Contact the Tria Health Help Desk at 1.888.799.8742