High Blood Cholesterol and Your Heart

March 2019

Administrator’s Letter

February is American Heart Health Month, and this year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Division for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention is focusing on high blood cholesterol and its effect on the heart.

High blood cholesterol is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke. And with nearly 1 in 3 adults in the United States diagnosed with high blood cholesterol, that makes it an especially serious health concern.

As you probably know, there’s “good” cholesterol (high-density lipoprotein, or HDL) and there’s “bad” cholesterol (low-density protein, or LDL). Our bodies actually produce cholesterol in the liver to make hormones and to digest fatty foods — the foods that are high in dietary cholesterol are high in saturated fats.

There are several risk factors for high blood cholesterol:

* Family history

* Diabetes

* Inactivity

* Obesity

* Eating a diet high in saturated fat and trans fat

* Your age and gender

As we age, our bodies don’t scrub cholesterol from our blood as easily as they did when we were younger. Men at any age have less “good” cholesterol than women do. And up until menopause (around age 55), women tend to have lower LDL levels than men.

Your doctor can determine what your blood cholesterol level is and help you devise a plan to reduce it if it’s high. In general, here are some suggestions to keep those numbers down:

  • Reduce saturated fats, trans fats and cholesterol in your diet.
  • Lose excess weight
  • Incorporate regular physical activity into your lifestyle

A downloadable brochure on ways to reduce high cholesterol can be found here:  https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/files/docs/public/heart/chol_tlc.pdf

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