Many months of the year have a health education or awareness topic associated with them, and September is no different. September is National Cholesterol Education Month and is the perfect opportunity for many Americans to get their blood cholesterol levels checked out, as well as start on the path to eating better and exercising regularly.
High blood cholesterol is a problem for over 70 million Americans. Elevated cholesterol levels can contribute to a person’s risk of heart disease, the leading cause of death in the country. Of the 70 million individuals living with high cholesterol, only about one third of them are working toward becoming healthier and reducing cholesterol levels. Here are some things you need to know about cholesterol, and how you can be proactive in checking up on it - ultimately reducing your risk of heart disease and other conditions.
What is Cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a fatty chemical that lines the outer layer, or membrane, of the cells throughout your body. While it’s often portrayed as an entirely bad thing, cholesterol is actually necessary for certain bodily functions, including the production of vitamin D and hormones. Your liver produces roughly 80% of your body’s cholesterol, and the foods you eat cover the rest. Foods containing cholesterol include meat, poultry, eggs, fish, and dairy products.
How is Cholesterol Bad for You?
Cholesterol is important, but too much of a good thing can have negative consequences. Cholesterol comes in a few different types, but the type to be concerned about is LDL, or the bad type of cholesterol. When LDL cholesterol is carried through your bloodstream, it’s eventually deposited on your artery walls, which causes a thick, hard layer to form. This layer is called cholesterol plaque and is built up over time as you continue to consume foods that are high in cholesterol.our body also naturally produces high LDL levels due to genetics, and a lack of regular exercise can further contribute to this build-up. If the plaque becomes too thick, the artery walls narrow, causing a condition called atherosclerosis. This narrowing of the walls is what raises your risk of various heart problems.
Taking Healthy Steps
Paying attention to what you eat, exercising, and visiting the doctor for blood cholesterol level tests and regular check ups are some of the first steps to take on the road to maintaining cholesterol levels. Making healthy changes can also help you control your cholesterol. Smoking, lack of exercise, excessive alcohol consumption, and obesity are a few of the guilty parties that contribute to high cholesterol.
Dietary changes can also make a difference. When eating, choose leaner cuts of meat and low-fat dairy; additionally, eliminate trans-fats like fried foods and commercial products like snack cakes, cookies, and crackers. Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, soluble fibers, and whey protein, can also play a part in reducing cholesterol.
Regular exercise should be on your schedule, as long as it is permitted by your healthcare provider. Taking brisk walks throughout your work day, swimming, playing an intramural sport, and jogging are all options for getting at least 30 minutes of exercise in each day.
Keeping tabs on your cholesterol is important this month, as it is with every month of the year. If you have concerns about cholesterol levels, want to work on improving your overall physical and heart health, or have general questions about cholesterol, we can help. Our team at Genesis Medical can assist you and answer your questions. To schedule an appointment with one of our specialists, find your nearest location and contact us today!