How to keep your cholesterol in check
by Mike Thomas, Oelwein Daily Register
High cholesterol is a condition that affects Americans of all ages and can lead to major health problems such as heart disease and stroke. The month of September marks National Cholesterol Education Month to raise awareness of the problem.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that more than 102 million American adults have total cholesterol levels over what is considered to be a healthy level.
Dr. Manju Mahajan from Covenant Clinic said individuals should first get checked out by their physician to see if their cholesterol levels are where they should be.
“Exercise is the first thing that is recommended,” Mahajan said. “In sense of diet, kind of avoiding fatty foods, avoiding red m eat and extra starchy food would be a good idea. Incorporate a diet that is rich in fiber, whole grains, green vegetables, beans, nuts and seafood are one of the things that can reduce cholesterol.”
In terms of exercise, 30 minutes a day of physical activity is recommended for adults to reduce cholesterol levels.
Alcohol and soda can also cause the body to build up extra fat, which in turn causes cholesterol levels to go up.
“Cholesterol is basically a substance in your body,” Mahajan said. “Everybody needs a little bit of cholesterol and it’s good for you. The problem is when you go above your normal levels. It starts to cause problems.”
Mahajan said every patient is different, and a doctor will look at risk factors and the individual’s medical history before taking a course of action.
“If someone is pretty healthy, doesn’t have huge risk factors and their cholesterol is just above their goal, you can get it down with exercise and diet,” Mahajan said. “If you have diabetes, heart disease or you had a stroke before, that’s when you need the medicine.”
In some cases, high cholesterol could be a hereditary condition.
“It does pass in families through genes and if that’s the case, some people will just have to be treated with medicine,” Mahajan said. “Some people cannot get it to come down on its own and they need medication just because of the family history. Even with those folks, we recommend continuing to maintain a diet and exercise, along with the medicine.”
High cholesterol does not usually have any warning signs or symptoms. A lipid panel blood test measures the amount of cholesterol and triglycerides in a patient’s blood stream.
The long-term effects from high cholesterol can clog up an individual’s arteries, Mahajan explains.
“That’s when it leads to heart disease,” Mahajan said. “It can stay in your arteries and blood vessels that supply your brain, your heart and the rest of your body. Once there is not enough supply to that orifice, it can cause issues.”
The effects of high cholesterol might not lead to more serious health problems right way but can occur at any age.
“It’s not directly age related, but as we age chances of getting other medical problems increase,” Mahajan said. “So that kind of decreases your threshold of when you started treatment. Because of medical conditions one can have as they age, like high blood pressure or heart disease, then [high cholesterol] kind of puts you at risk of this as well.”
Originally published in the Oelwein Daily Register and Independence Bulletin Journal Health Beat, September 2018. Re-published with permission.