Overcoming an Unseen Killer
We tried to think of a nicer way to open this subject, because we don’t want to always be talking about fatalities when we discuss how serious a health threat is. But it seems irresponsible not to mention at the outset that high serum cholesterol is a factor in the two most widespread causes of premature death in our nation, heart attack and stroke.
In fact, if any visible thing were causing so many deaths we as a nation would be obsessed with the subject.
Why It’s Invisible and Life-Threatening
Your body makes cholesterol. It is present in every cell, as well as in the bloodstream. Cholesterol helps build cell membranes and produce vitamin D, hormones, and certain acids that help us digest fat.
But, like so many other things in life, healthy cholesterol is a matter of balance. When cholesterol carried by LDL, a lipoprotein, is not used, broken down by the liver or passed out of the body, then it can stick to artery walls in a form called plaque.
As plaque accumulates, it narrows down the artery, restricting the blood supply and causing the heart to work harder getting circulation to where it is needed. The long-term effect of this extra work on the heart, the stresses plaque places on the artery walls and the chances that plaque will break loose, blocking blood vessels to the heart (heart attack) or the brain (stroke) combine to become the most widespread threat to life of all. More than 102 million Americans have high blood pressure.
Why We Learn More in September
National Cholesterol Education Month is observed in the traditional back-to-school month of September to bring this invisible threat to our attention, learn more about how to prevent high cholesterol and what steps you can take to reduce your risk.
How Do We Take Action?
Because it is invisible and presents no symptoms until something goes badly wrong, the only way to know and address your risk is through blood cholesterol screening tests. The National Cholesterol Education Program recommends that adults aged 20 years or older have their blood cholesterol level tested every five years. Many physicians advise patients over 50 to test every year. When you know your score you can make adjustments that may help you live longer.
If you and your physician find that your cholesterol level is high, then the options for lowering it can include diet, exercise, and medication. All have proven very effective. But the critical thing is to know your score in the first place, so that you can take these steps.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend eating more fresh fruits, fresh vegetables, and whole grains. A low-fat, high-fiber diet can help improve your serum cholesterol score.
Exercise, too, is recommended. Specifically, getting two-and-a-half hours of moderate exercise per week, or one hour and 15 minutes of vigorous physical activity per week is recommended for adults. For youngsters ages six to 17, an hour or more of physical activity per day is called for, and, yes, even young people can begin to show high levels of serum cholesterol.
Maintaining a healthy weight and not smoking are also recommended.
It Starts by Knowing the Score
But knowing your score is the beginning. We’d like to help you begin this careful approach by getting your serum cholesterol tested, and then advising you personally on what makes sense for you, in protecting yourself and your family from the serious threats of high cholesterol.
Just call us at 843-815-6468.