High blood cholesterol is one of the major risk factors for heart disease. In fact, the higher your blood cholesterol, the greater your risk of developing heart disease or having a heart attack. Heart disease is the #1 killer of men and women in the United States. Each year, more than a million Americans have a heart attack, and about half a million people die of heart disease.
So what IS cholesterol, anyway? Cholesterol is a wax-like substance found in our bodies. Our body uses cholesterol for cell membranes, making hormones, vitamin D, and to aid in digestion. We actually make all the cholesterol we need to be healthy! However, we also obtain cholesterol from some of the foods we eat, such as meat and dairy products. When a person’s cholesterol levels are too high, it can build up on the walls of blood vessels, making them narrower, which can cause the person to have a heart attack or stroke. There are usually no symptoms when cholesterol is elevated. The only way to know if you are at risk is through a blood test.
It is desirable to have a total cholesterol measurement of less than 200 mg/dL. If your levels are too high, they may be lowered by diet, exercise and — when necessary — medication.
If your total cholesterol level is higher than 200 mg/dL, please talk with your doctor to learn ways to reduce your levels. If you don’t have a health care provider, Find a Doctor today!