When it Comes to Cholesterol, Don’t Judge a Book by its Cover

The Upcoming Holiday Season Serves as a Reminder for Patients to Schedule Yearly Well Visits

DAYTON, Ohio (October 10, 2011) – With cooler weather and the holidays approaching, the temptation to give in to unhealthy eating habits and inactivity increases. September was National Cholesterol Education Month and although it’s passed, it’s not too late for adults to have their cholesterol checked and take the necessary steps to keep it in a healthy range before they’re faced with those unhealthy holiday habits.

High cholesterol is an asymptomatic condition—people don’t know they have it until they get tested. Cholesterol is checked with a simple fasting blood test called a “lipoprotein profile,” which can be done during a physical or well visit to a primary care physician.

“Many people think that if they look and feel healthy, then they don’t have high cholesterol,” said Dr. Erin Mathews of Vandalia Medical Center. “In reality, high cholesterol can occur in people that look perfectly healthy.”

The biggest contributing factor to high cholesterol is heredity. Individuals with a family history of high cholesterol are much more likely to have high cholesterol. Other factors that put people at increased risk for developing high cholesterol are smoking, age, gender and preexisting conditions such as high blood pressure and diabetes.

 “A lot of people get discouraged when they work hard, but just can’t seem to get their cholesterol down,” said Dr. Mathews. “Since genetics play such a large role in cholesterol levels, some people need medication to manage it, regardless of what lifestyle changes they make.”

Diet also affects cholesterol levels—a diet high in trans and saturated fats, and cholesterol help raise LDL or “bad” cholesterol. This includes foods that are animal based, such as red meats, eggs and full-fat cheeses and dairy. Individuals should focus on eating a diet high in fiber, low in carbohydrates and high in “good fats” to lower LDL and raise HDL levels. These types of food include: fat-free or one percent dairy products, lean meat or fish, whole grain foods, fruits and vegetables.

In addition to diet, weight and physical activity also impact cholesterol levels. Being overweight and physical inactivity are risk factors for heart disease and tend to be associated with high cholesterol. Exercise and weight loss can help lower “bad” cholesterol levels.

“Exercise is crucial to lowering cholesterol,” said Dr. Mathews. “People should strive for 30 minutes or more of moderately intense activity per day, most days of the week. Of course, it’s always a good idea to consult your primary care physician before beginning a new exercise routine.”

Other factors that put people at increased risk for developing high cholesterol are smoking, age, gender and preexisting conditions such as high blood pressure and diabetes.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately one in every six adults has high cholesterol. What’s more, nearly a quarter of American adults report that their cholesterol has never been checked.  Individuals with high cholesterol have an increased risk of developing heart disease—the leading cause of death in the U.S.

Cholesterol is made up of HDL, LDL and Triglycerides. HDL, or high density lipoproteins is considered “good” cholesterol. The higher the HDL levels the better, as it can help prevent the buildup of cholesterol in the arteries. LDL, or low density lipoprotein, is considered “bad” cholesterol and is the main source of cholesterol buildup and blockage in arteries. The third component, triglycerides, is another form of fat in the blood that can increase the risk for heart disease. Ideal cholesterol levels vary from person to person depending on other risk factors, but most healthy adults should strive for LDL levels below 130, Triglyceride levels below 150 and HDL levels greater than 40.

For information on special sessions or events about nutrition and cholesterol, visit Premier HealthNet’s calendar of events at www.premierhealthnet.com/phncalendar.aspx.</

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