When should you start staying aware of your cholesterol levels? Your family doctor has the best answer, but it’s younger than you might think. While we’re young and still enjoying sub-200 total cholesterol scores, it is tempting to put off testing. But even then, it’s a lifesaving idea to prepare for the day when healthy cholesterol levels can no longer be assumed. A stage arrives in life when continual awareness of our cholesterol levels is a fact of life we should accept.

The lesson has been building for generations. With skyrocketing rates of heart attack occurring in the late 1940s, people who had survived the Great Depression and World War II were dying by the hundreds of thousands at home. Two landmark research studies showed that cholesterol was a key contributing factor to those deaths.

Further research in the early 1950s revealed that even young people, still in their 20s and 30s, already had deposits of plaque narrowing their arteries. This research was the dawn of awareness that high cholesterol is a menace worth looking out for sooner rather than later.

How Much is Too Much

Total cholesterol readings of 200 or more are a red flag, and even lower levels than those are recommended for many individuals. Total cholesterol is the measure of HDL, LDL, and triglycerides in the blood. We hear about “bad” and “good” cholesterol, and many of us stay confused. The H in HDL cholesterol can be a reminder that this is the level we would like to see relatively high, and the L in LDL reminds us to keep this level low. But why?

HDL cholesterol absorbs fats and carries cholesterol back to the liver where the body can get rid of it. So that’s why it’s called “good.” LDL cholesterol is called “bad” because high levels of it cause plaque to build up in arteries, leading in many cases to heart attack and stroke.

Cholesterol occurs naturally in the body as a fat-like substance with a waxy texture. It travels through the bloodstream doing jobs like helping to make hormones and digesting fatty foods. Cholesterol is found in many foods, as we constantly hear, like cheese, eggs, and meat. But the body makes a certain amount of its own cholesterol, too.

How to Take Action

Diet and exercise can help prevent high cholesterol levels, and reduce them if high levels have been reached. But while lifestyle factors are very important, most people find that there is a limit to what they can achieve alone once high cholesterol rears its head.

Fortunately, there are many effective medications that can help greatly to reduce the level of cholesterol in the bloodstream and maintain healthy levels over the long term. Finding the medication that’s right for you takes a doctor’s know-how.

The first step is to get a fix on where you stand right now. Why not schedule an appointment with us at Global Family Medicine to get your testing under way and find out more about what you can do to maintain the cholesterol levels that are healthy for you? Call us at 843-815-6468.