Trying to stay healthy can feel like a challenge. One of the most misunderstood pieces of bloodwork and our health is cholesterol. According to the American Heart Association, almost one in three adults has high cholesterol based on their most recent bloodwork.
With so many abbreviations and so much misinformation surrounding it, here are the answers to some of the most common questions about cholesterol.
1. What Is Cholesterol?
The most basic of the common questions about cholesterol is what it is in the first place. It is found in our blood and is a waxy substance that is present in fats. The liver is responsible for producing almost 75% of our body’s cholesterol, and the rest we get from our diet. Our bodies need some cholesterol in order to produce hormones and vitamin D. Also, to form the membranes for our cells.
2. What are HDL and LDL?
The two types of cholesterol carriers are high-density lipoproteins (HDL) or good cholesterol and low-density lipoproteins (LDL) or bad cholesterol. Good cholesterol refers to lipoproteins that carry cholesterol from our blood back to the liver to be removed through our waste. LDL should be limited because it takes cholesterol from the liver into your body. This can combine with other fats in your blood to accumulate in your arteries. If you have specific questions about cholesterol levels on your bloodwork, you should talk to your doctor about your personal LDL and HDL benchmarks.
3. What Happens When You Have High Cholesterol?
If you have high cholesterol, it means that there is a good chance excess cholesterol is accumulating in the walls of your arteries in the form of plaque. When plaque is able to accumulate in your arteries, it can restrict the blood flow throughout your body, including the flow to vital organs like your heart. If a piece of the plaque breaks off of the arterial walls or ruptures, it can cause a blood clot to form and do other serious damage. Heart disease is currently the leading cause of death in the United States. So, all of these questions about cholesterol can help you to understand your situation and reduce your risk.
4. How Can You Find Out Your Cholesterol Level?
There are usually no symptoms of high cholesterol or poor levels of good cholesterol, so the best way to find out is by visiting your doctor and having bloodwork performed. A lipid profile will measure the four main forms of lipids, or fats, in your blood. You will get a snapshot of the levels of cholesterol, HDL, LDL, and triglycerides in your blood. All of these can indicate an increased risk of heart disease. Once you turn 20, you should have your cholesterol levels checked using bloodwork every 4-6 years. If you have a family history of heart disease, you have high blood pressure or you have a family history of high cholesterol, your doctor might suggest more frequent testing.
5. How Can You Lower Your Cholesterol?
This is one of the best questions about cholesterol because it can help you to avoid medication and serious health problems. To lower your cholesterol without medication, you should start by making lifestyle changes. Lose weight and maintain a healthy weight. Body Refined can help you to manage your lifestyle with integrative health tips that are sustainable and designed to help you be as healthy as possible. Watch your fat intake and focus on a high-fiber diet filled with vegetables, fruit, fish, poultry and whole grains. If you are a smoker, quit smoking or limit your tobacco usage. Studies have shown that vigorous physical activity 3-4 times a week can lower blood pressure and help lower cholesterol.
6. Can You Have High Cholesterol Even If You Do Everything Right?
Unfortunately, the answer to this question is yes. For about 20% of American adults who have high cholesterol, the problem behind the high levels is genetic. If elevated cholesterol runs in your family, especially if family members have had heart attacks in the past, you might have genetically predisposed high cholesterol. It’s a good idea to review your family health history and discuss it with your doctor.
Your doctor can help give you regular checkups and bloodwork to reduce your risk. Even if you are young, it’s a good idea to start working with your doctor to proactively address health concerns now. Preventing issues is always easier, more cost-effective and safer than dealing with treatment and procedures further down the road. Your health is in your hands, and the team at Body Refined is here to help!
The best way to manage your high cholesterol levels if they are genetic is with a healthy lifestyle. Body Refined can help you find the right sustainable program for you that focuses on healthy eating, healthy movement and living the best life that you can.
It’s important to realize what you can control even if you are more likely to have high cholesterol due to your ancestry. Diet, exercise and lifestyle are all major factors in your overall health, and taking the time to master them and optimize them can dramatically lower your risk.
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