Check Yourself So You Don’t Wreck Yourself

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When was the last time you had your cholesterol checked? You could be walking around with high cholesterol and not realize it because it is largely an asymptomatic condition, meaning you cannot readily see or feel symptoms of high cholesterol. And high cholesterol puts you at risk for heart disease, the leading cause of death in the United States. One in every six adult Americans has high cholesterol so since September is National Cholesterol Education Month, now is an ideal time to check your cholesterol and take steps to lower it if it is high.

The National Lipid Association (NLA) recommends that all adults age 20 or older have a fasting lipid profile (a blood draw taken after a fast without food, liquid or pills) at least every five years to determine the numbers for their total cholesterol, LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, HDL (“good”) cholesterol and triglycerides. In particular, adults who are gaining weight, and those who have high blood pressure or diabetes, should have their cholesterol levels checked.For decades, research has shown that taking steps to manage high cholesterol—including appropriate dietary choices, physical activity and medication—can improve one’s health and increase lifespan by minimizing the risk for heart disease.

“You should check with your regular physician to ask for a cholesterol screening,” said Peter Toth, MD, PhD and president of the NLA. “Most family practice physicians, internists, cardiologists, endocrinologists, and some obstetrician/gynecologists can initiate screening and assess your cholesterol levels. If you have a more complicated set of issues, your primary care physician may refer you to a lipidologist, someone who specializes in the treatment of cholesterol problems.”

After getting your results back, your provider will be able to explain the numbers to you and what they mean. If you have high cholesterol, there are a number of steps you can take. The first step to improve your health is always lifestyle change, including eating an appropriate diet and getting enough exercise. Which diet is best for you depends on which cholesterol problem you have. Your principal problem may be elevated LDL cholesterol, or it may be low HDL cholesterol and elevated triglycerides, or it may be some combination of these. Trying to figure out the best dietary approach can be challenging, but there are resources that can help you with this task.

The second part of lifestyle change is increasing physical activity, aiming for 30 minutes of activity on most and preferably all days of the week.

The last step in improving cholesterol levels is the use of prescription medications, which are selected for you by your health care provider. Many classes of medications to control cholesterol are available; your physician will be able to recommend the best course of treatment based on your condition.

So you don’t have to wreck yourself—just check yourself—and learn about how you can prevent high cholesterol.

For more information about cholesterol and how you can improve your cholesterol levels, go to learnyourlipids.com.