Cholesterol circulates in the blood and can be good or bad – LDL, which is bad, and HDL, which is good. So, why should this matter to you?
While it can be great at normal levels, too much of it can become a problem that can put you at risk of heart disease.
What is Cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance your body needs to make substances that help you digest foods, build cells, and vitamins (like vitamin D) as well as other hormones and is present in every cell of the body. Your body makes what it needs, but you add cholesterol by eating certain foods like fatty meats, fried foods, baked goods and sweets, egg yolks, and others.
When you have too much cholesterol in your blood, it can form plaque when combined with other substances and can stick to the walls of your arteries. The build-up of fatty deposits makes it difficult for blood to flow through the arteries. This can lead to coronary artery disease (CAD), which is the most common type of heart disease and the leading cause of death in the United States for both men and women.
What causes high cholesterol?
An unhealthy lifestyle often leads to high cholesterol. Eating fatty foods, not exercising enough, smoking, drinking alcohol, and obesity all play a role in raising your levels. Lipoprotein, which is a combination of cholesterol and proteins, comes in the form of low-density lipoprotein (LDL), and high-density lipoprotein (HDL). LDL is the “bad” cholesterol, which is what builds up in the walls of your arteries. HDL is the “good” cholesterol, which picks up excess cholesterol and delivers it back to your liver.
Heredity can play a role. If you have a family history of this, get checked by visiting your primary care provider.
Medical conditions associated with unhealthy levels are:
- Chronic kidney disease
Factors that can also increase the chances of unhealthy levels are:
- Lack of exercise
- Unhealthy diet
High cholesterol has been linked to complications such as stroke, vascular disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart attack.
In order to prevent or lower your cholesterol, you can:
- Quit smoking and drinking alcohol (or limit alcohol intake)
- Lose weight
- Incorporate a low-sodium diet full of fruits, whole grains, and vegetables
- Manage your stress
Be sure to call your primary care provider soon and get your cholesterol levels checked if you haven’t recently. In Yanceyville, call (336) 694-9331, or in Eden, call (336) 864-2795.