September is National Cholesterol Education Month and serves as a reminder to increase efforts to address one of the biggest risk factors for cardiovascular disease: high cholesterol.
Cholesterol is a waxy substance that your body uses to build cells and make vitamins and other hormones. It’s not necessarily bad, but too much cholesterol can pose a problem. Cholesterol comes from two main sources: the liver and animal products. Foods high in saturated and trans fats also contribute to raising cholesterol by causing the liver to create even more.
High cholesterol is one of the leading factors of cardiovascular disease and stroke. Keeping your numbers in check can go a long way toward preventing cardiovascular issues.
“It’s important to know your numbers and what they mean,” said Dr. Erbert Caceres, Prairie Heart Institute cardiologist. “If there is a problem, often small lifestyle changes can help get your numbers in an acceptable range. If those changes are not sufficient, medication may be prescribed.”
HSHS St. Francis Hospital and Prairie Heart Institute 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 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
- Physical activity is important. 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. But a weight loss of as little as 5% to 10% can help improve cholesterol numbers.
Learn more information and even take a high cholesterol risk assessment at heart.org/cholesterol.