This month is National Cholesterol Education Month which hopefully will turn our attention to learning how we can take some preventative steps toward lowering our risk of heart disease. We’ve heard a lot lately about vaccines . . . OK, maybe I was an author of a portion of the many informational diatribes on how important vaccines are. Probably the main point that I stressed was the fact that vaccines were a way to prevent illness. That same reasoning applies to your cholesterol score, it can give you an early warning to a possible heart disease risk and allow you to take some preventative measures to lower that risk.
A high cholesterol score is bad, doctors would like you to have a score of 200 or below but “normal ranges” are less important than your overall cardiovascular health. Your doctor will take into account your personal health and history and advise you if any steps need to be taken. Remember, over 102 million Americans have total cholesterol levels above healthy levels and 35 million have dangerous levels that put them at high risk for heart disease. It is worth taking the time to have your doctor test your cholesterol levels.
In the spirit of education, here is some information on cholesterol from the Medical West web site:
“Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance made in the liver and found in certain foods, such as from animals, like dairy products, eggs, and meat. The body needs some cholesterol in order to function properly. However, too much cholesterol can increase a person’s risk of developing heart disease. There are several factors that contribute to high cholesterol — some are controllable while others are not. Some of the non-controllable factors include age (men above age 45 and women above age 55), gender (women are at higher risk after menopause), and a family history of high cholesterol. Controllable factors include eating a high fat diet, being overweight, and not getting enough exercise.”
Click here for a great 3-minute video that explains even more about cholesterol.
The next question we should ask is, who needs to get their cholesterol checked and how often?
- Most healthy adults should have their cholesterol checked every 4 to 6 years.
- Some people, such as people who have heart disease or diabetes or who have a family history of high cholesterol, need to get their cholesterol checked more often.
- Children and adolescents should have their cholesterol checked at least once between ages 9 and 11 and again between ages 17 and 21.
- Talk to your healthcare team about your health history and how often you need to have your cholesterol checked.
There’s a lot of rumors and myths out there about high cholesterol. Here are some of the more prevalent myths:
- Myth: I would be able to feel it if I had high cholesterol.
- Fact: High cholesterol usually has no signs or symptoms.
- Myth: Eating foods high in cholesterol won’t make my cholesterol levels go up.
- Fact: We know that foods with a lot of cholesterol usually also have a lot of saturated fat which can make cholesterol numbers higher.
- Myth: I can’t do anything to change my cholesterol levels.
- Fact: Exercise, lifestyle changes and medicine can all work to lower your cholesterol score.
- Myth: All cholesterol is bad for you.
- Fact: Some types of cholesterol are essential for good health. LDL (low-density lipoprotein), sometimes called “bad” cholesterol, makes up most of your body’s cholesterol. High levels of LDL cholesterol raise your risk for heart disease and stroke. HDL (high-density lipoprotein), or “good” cholesterol, carries cholesterol back to the liver. The liver then flushes it from the body. High levels of HDL cholesterol can lower your risk for heart disease and stroke.
We’ve seen some great strides in the discovery of medicines that can help lower our cholesterol score. A CDC website identifies five medicines that will help us lower our score. You can click here to find out more about these great medicines.
We’ve hopefully imparted some knowledge in the spirit of the National Cholesterol Education Month. For fun, click here to take a quiz that will test your smarts on cholesterol.
As with all my blogs there is always an action required. If you haven’t had your cholesterol checked in the last 5 years call you doctor and get it done. It’s one of those preventative things we can do that can truly change, or even save, our lives.
I want to remind you that we will have a Seniors Speak Out Facebook Live event with Matt Monday from Morning Consult and me this Thursday, September 15, at 2:00 PM ET where we will discuss how seniors feel about their Medicare Part D plans. Click on this link for more information. This discussion will focus on the yearly survey that the Healthcare Leadership Council has been taking since the inception of Medicare’s Part D Prescription Medicine program. This yearly survey helps me keep a finger on the pulse of the important people in this program . . . you, the program’s beneficiary. It should be an especially interesting discussion given the changes to Part D that have just been signed into law. Click here to find out more and how to join what looks to be a spirited discussion.