High cholesterol is one of those things that easily sneak up on you. There’s just something about human nature that makes us want to bury our heads in the sand rather than receive bad news – as if it can’t hurt us if we don’t know about it.
When it comes to our health, a large part of the problem is the lack of information available, and much of the information we do have access to is conflicting. But knowledge is power, so here are 8 things you need to know about cholesterol to help you and any loved ones you may be caring for.
1) There are no symptoms that come along with having high cholesterol until it’s too late, which is why it’s vital to get your levels checked regularly.
2) When you do get your cholesterol checked, make sure you get your HDL (high-density lipoprotein) and LDL (low-density lipoprotein) levels measured, not just your total cholesterol, which doesn’t tell you much of anything. Your cholesterol numbers might be slightly higher than the average, but if it’s mostly HDL and low LDL, you have nothing to worry about. On the other hand, if your overall cholesterol is low, but it’s mostly LDL with low levels of HDL, that’s something you should be concerned about. Also keep an eye on your triglyceride numbers, which you want to be lowest of all.
3) The body makes most of its own cholesterol – only about ¼ of the cholesterol in our body comes from the food we eat. Because of the specific form cholesterol takes in most of our foods, most of it doesn’t get absorbed, so you don’t actually need to worry about foods that are high in cholesterol, especially since they are often among the most nutritious foods available to us.
4) That said, genetics do play a factor. Some people are genetically predisposed to make more cholesterol than others, and in some cases, the ratio of HDL to LDL might be less than favorable. Diet and exercise both play a role, but it’s always a good idea to check your family history and be sure to remain vigilant about getting your levels checked.
5) While we tend to focus on high cholesterol, it’s important to remember that there is such a thing as cholesterol levels that are too low. Cholesterol is vital to maintaining our health – it helps carry nutrients around the body and HDL actually helps keep our arteries clean. So don’t get too focused on getting your cholesterol as low as possible – if it’s in the healthy range and you have a good ration of HDL to LDL, you’re fine and you don’t need to worry about it.
6) Cholesterol levels tend to rise as we age and women in particular tend to experience higher triglyceride levels after menopause, so be on the lookout for all of those warning signs.
7) The National Cholesterol Education Program recommends adults over 20 get their cholesterol levels checked every 5 years, but those who are at risk (especially people over the age of 45) might need to get their levels checked more frequently.
8) High blood pressure and smoking are also both associated with higher levels of cholesterol, so if you have a loved one who smokes and you know they have high blood pressure, try to be extra vigilant about making sure they get their cholesterol checked regularly and keep their diet and exercise regimen as healthy as possible.
Maintaining healthy cholesterol levels is not only good for helping to prevent heart attacks and stroke, but also dementia and a whole host of other potential health problems. It’s just one more reason to educate yourself on the facts of cholesterol so you can protect yourself and those you are caring for.
At Stillwater Senior Living, we do everything we can to answer the questions of our seniors in our community, as well as help them manage their health. If we do not have the answer, we will find someone that does.
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