September is National Cholesterol Education month and Covenant Health wants to help educate the community about cholesterol and the importance of maintaining a healthy level. Patty Freier, B.S.N., R.N., R.C.I.S., education nurse specialist and chest pain center coordinator for the Covenant Heart and Vascular Institute, discusses the basics about cholesterol and tips to prevent high levels.
- Cholesterol is a waxy substance that travels through the bloodstream. It is important because the amount of cholesterol in the bloodstream is a key indicator of a person’s potential for heart disease.
- There are no symptoms for high cholesterol. A blood test can be performed by a doctor to determine your cholesterol level.
- Lipoproteins are lipids (fats) packaged in a protein shell to carry cholesterol throughout the body. There are two different types of cholesterol lipoproteins: low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and high-density lipoprotein (HDL).
- Low-density lipoprotein is known as the “bad” cholesterol. It delivers cholesterol to body cells and too much LDL cholesterol can build up in artery walls.
- High-density lipoprotein (HDL) is know as “good” cholesterol and collects excess LDL cholesterol deposited on blood vessels walls.
- High cholesterol is mainly caused by eating a diet high in fatty, fried and processed foods. It can also be caused by a genetic disorder. Low cholesterol is not seen very often but can be caused by excess dieting.
- Eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly is the best way to treat and prevent high cholesterol. Not smoking and managing stress and blood pressure is also essential in maintaining a healthy cholesterol level.
- Medicines can be prescribed to treat high cholesterol, but diet and exercise must be incorporated in order to have a healthy level.
- Not addressing a high cholesterol level can result in serious medical problems. Having high cholesterol can lead to developing hypertension and high blood pressure. Those problems can result in having a heart attack or stroke, which can be deadly.
- A common misconception about cholesterol is that people who eat healthy and exercise regularly do not have to worry about having high cholesterol. High cholesterol can be genetic; therefore, everyone should have their cholesterol levels checked at their annual physical.
High cholesterol levels can be very dangerous. Watching what you eat, exercising regularly and having your cholesterol checked annually, Freier says, are crucial to maintaining a healthy lifestyle.