Did you know that September is National Cholesterol Education Month? Having high levels of cholesterol in your body can lead to serious health problems, so understanding the basics of what cholesterol is and how you can control your cholesterol levels is extremely important. According to the CDC, “More than 102 million American Adults (20 years or older) have total cholesterol levels at or above 200 mg/dL, which is above healthy levels.” High cholesterol levels lead to a significantly higher risk of contracting heart disease, which is the leading cause of death in the country. Read on to learn more about cholesterol and how to maintain healthy levels of it in your body.
What is cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a waxy substance that your body uses to create vitamin D, hormones, and bile, which is needed to digest food. Your liver creates all of the cholesterol your body needs to function properly. Cholesterol is also found in animal-based foods, such as meat, egg yolks, and whole-fat dairy products. There are two types of proteins that carry cholesterol through the blood: LDL (low-density lipoprotein) and HDL (high-density lipoprotein). LDL is naturally occurring in the body and transports cholesterol through the bloodstream to cells that need it. LDL is considered “bad” cholesterol because if your body has too much LDL it causes plaque buildup in your arteries that can ultimately lead to a stroke or heart attack. The other protein, HDL, is known as “good” cholesterol. HDL absorbs unused cholesterol from your cells and from built-up plaque to transport them to the liver, where they are flushed out of your body. Smoking, lack of physical activity, and unhealthy eating habits are all known to lower levels of HDL and raise levels of LDL in your body. Watch this video from the American Heart Association for more information on the basics of how cholesterol works in your body:
How do I know if I have high cholesterol?
Unfortunately, there are no symptoms related to having high cholesterol. The only way to check your levels is to have a simple blood test done through your healthcare provider. The CDC recommends getting your cholesterol checked every 5 years, but always ask your healthcare provider for their recommendation. Certain factors could increase your risk of high cholesterol, stroke, or heart disease, and your medical team will let you know how often you should come in for a checkup. If you are unable to visit a healthcare provider you can easily get your cholesterol checked at an urgent care center or through a CVS HealthHUB.
What can I do to prevent high cholesterol?
We went right to the source for information on how to prevent high cholesterol. Check out this advice from the American Heart Association for tips on how to lower and maintain your cholesterol and stay healthy:
We hope this post has helped you to understand how cholesterol works in your body and what you can do to maintain healthy levels of cholesterol. If you would like to learn more, we recommend checking out this information from the CDC or the American Heart Association.
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