Eau Claire and Chippewa Falls, Wis. – An estimated 38% of American adults have high cholesterol and another 7% of children and adolescents ages 6 to 19 have levels over the recommended number, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Cholesterol is a waxy substance your body needs to build cells, but too much cholesterol may raise the risk for heart disease, the leading cause of death in the U.S., and for stroke, the fifth leading cause of death in the country.
High cholesterol has no symptoms and travels through the body silently until it becomes plaque - a buildup of substances in the walls of arteries. Often, people don’t know their cholesterol is too high and increasing the risk of serious health complications. A simple blood test can check cholesterol levels, and a follow-up conversation with your physician can provide tips to manage the condition.
Cholesterol comes from two main sources: the liver and animal products. Foods high in saturated and trans-fats also contribute to high cholesterol levels by causing the liver to overproduce the substance.
“Know your numbers and what to do about them,” said Jennifer Boehm, cardiac care registered nurse at HSHS Sacred Heart and St. Joseph’s hospitals. “If there is an issue, often small lifestyle changes can bring your numbers in line, but if that’s not enough, medication may be an option for some patients.”
Boehm says heart-healthy adults have a total cholesterol level under 200. A number between 200-239 is considered “at risk.” Anything over 240 is described as “dangerous.”
HSHS Sacred Heart and St. Joseph’s hospitals offer four ways to lower your cholesterol, as also recommended by the American Heart Association:
- Eat a heart-healthy diet
- The best way to lower your cholesterol is to reduce your intake of saturated fat and trans-fat.
- A heart-healthy diet emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, poultry, fish, nuts and non-tropical vegetable oils, while limiting red and processed meats, sodium and sugar-sweetened foods and beverages.
- Become more physically active
- At least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise a week is enough to lower both cholesterol and high blood pressure.
- Quit smoking
- By quitting, smokers can lower their bad cholesterol (LDL) and increase their good cholesterol (HDL) levels.
- Lose weight
- Being overweight or obese tends to raise bad cholesterol and lower good cholesterol. A weight loss of 5% to 10% may improve cholesterol numbers significantly.
Boehm says most healthy adults should have their cholesterol checked every four to six years. Some, who have heart disease, diabetes or a family history of high cholesterol need to have it checked more often.Learn more, and take a high cholesterol risk assessment at: American Heart Association
To learn more cholesterol facts and myths, including the difference between good and bad cholesterol, visit the CDC website.
About HSHS Sacred Heart Hospital
HSHS Sacred Heart Hospital is sponsored by Hospital Sisters Ministries, the Hospital Sisters of St. Francis is the Founding Institute, and it is an affiliate of Hospital Sisters Health System. Since 1889, it has been meeting patient needs in western Wisconsin with the latest medical innovations and technology, together with a Franciscan whole-person healing tradition.
About HSHS St. Joseph’s Hospital
HSHS St. Joseph’s Hospital is sponsored by Hospital Sisters Ministries, the Hospital Sisters of St. Francis is the Founding Institute, and it is an affiliate of Hospital Sisters Health System. Since 1885, it has served the people of the Chippewa Falls area with health care that is high tech and high touch. Known locally for the quality of the care it provides patients, the hospital has been recognized nationally for its outstanding patient satisfaction levels.
About Hospital Sisters Health System
Hospital Sisters Health System’s (HSHS) mission is to reveal and embody Christ’s healing love for all people through our high quality, Franciscan health care ministry. HSHS provides state-of-the-art health care to our patients and is dedicated to serving all people, especially the most vulnerable, at each of our physician practices and 15 local hospitals in two states - Illinois (Breese, Decatur, Effingham, Greenville, Highland, Litchfield, O’Fallon, Shelbyville and Springfield) and Wisconsin (Chippewa Falls, Eau Claire, Oconto Falls, Sheboygan, and two in Green Bay). HSHS is sponsored by Hospital Sisters Ministries, and Hospital Sisters of St. Francis is the founding institute. For more information about HSHS, visit www.hshs.org. For more information about Hospital Sisters of St. Francis, visit www.hospitalsisters.org.