When is the last time you had your cholesterol checked? If you can’t remember, maybe it’s time. September is National Cholesterol Education Month and is the perfect time to learn about the role cholesterol screening plays in living a healthy lifestyle.
Cholesterol is a waxy substance that is essential for bodily functions such as food digestion, vitamin-D and hormone production, and the development of cell membranes. Too much cholesterol can be extremely harmful and significantly increases your risk for heart attack, stroke, heart disease, diabetes and some cancers.
There are two types of cholesterol: high-density lipoprotein (HDL, or the good kind) and low-density lipoprotein (LDL, or the bad kind). HDL cholesterol helps prevent the LDL cholesterol from lodging in and blocking artery walls. The American Heart Association states that healthy levels of HDL are protective against heart attack and stroke, whereas low levels of HDL can increase one’s risk.
Getting a blood test to determine your cholesterol level is the only way to detect high cholesterol. According to the National Cholesterol Education Program, it is recommended that individuals aged 20 years or older have their cholesterol checked every 5 years.
There are a number of ways to manage your cholesterol:
- Eat a heart-healthy diet that is plentiful in fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats, and low in saturated and trans fats. Avoid foods that are rich in animal fats such as full-fat dairy products and red meat.
- Exercise regularly. The American Heart Association recommends at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity at least 5 days per week AND moderate to high intensity muscle-strengthening activity at least 2 or more days per week.
- Avoid ALL forms of tobacco and tobacco smoke.
- If you are overweight or obese begin a weight management program. Excess weight can contribute to high cholesterol and even losing 5-10 pounds can help lower your cholesterol levels.
Talk to your doctor about getting screened and reducing your risk.
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