Lower Your Cholesterol
For many Americans working toward better heart health, an important first step is getting cholesterol to a healthy level. Diet and exercise are important steps to reduce high cholesterol. However, many people may find that with diet and exercise alone, cholesterol numbers are not where they should be.
More than one hundred million Americans have high cholesterol, an important risk factor for heart disease. Though diet is very important, many people don't realize that cholesterol is also produced in the body based upon heredity.
Learning about your family health history is important—we recommend talking to your family about their health and creating a family health tree. Bringing this information to your next doctor visit will help you discuss your family history regarding cholesterol and other hereditary health concerns.
What you eat affects your health, by raising or lowering the blood fats (cholesterol, triglycerides) that circulate through your body. Some foods increase your levels of total cholesterol, LDL or "bad" cholesterol and triglycerides. Over the years, excess cholesterol and fat are deposited in the inner walls of the arteries that supply blood to your heart. Eventually, these deposits can make your arteries narrower and less flexible, a condition known as atherosclerosis. Left unchecked, this buildup can lead to heart attack, stroke and death.
Additionally, because of your family health history, your body may be genetically predisposed to make more cholesterol than you may need, in addition to the cholesterol from your food intake.
Know your numbers!
Each one of us has a cholesterol goal level, based upon our individual risk factors and our risk for heart disease. The National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP) recommends that everyone age 20 and over have a blood cholesterol test every five years to check their cholesterol levels. To learn more about your goal, visit the National Cholesterol Education Program's Live Healthier, Live Longer Web site.
If your cholesterol levels are mildly to moderately higher than your goal, making a few dietary changes may be all you need to get back on track.
According to current NCEP recommendations, people with coronary heart disease or others considered to be at high risk for coronary heart disease generally have an LDL cholesterol goal of less than 100 mg/dL. An LDL cholesterol goal of less than 70 mg/dL is a therapeutic option for people considered to be at very high risk. Work with your doctor to develop a plan to help reduce your LDL cholesterol number to goal.
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