High blood cholesterol can increase a person’s risk for coronary heart disease, but a few lifestyle changes can lower one’s cholesterol level and improve health
Cardiovascular disease is the number one killer of Americans and one of the risk factors for heart disease is high cholesterol. Cholesterol is a substance that occurs naturally in the body and when it is too high, can cause a build up of plaque in the heart vessels, says Dr. Susan Hingle, associate professor of internal medicine at SIU School of Medicine in Springfield. She says several things can affect cholesterol levels.
SOUND BITE: “Weight definitely affects cholesterol -- the more overweight or obese we are, the greater the levels of cholesterol. Diet can definitely impact it. If we eat a diet that is high in fats, that can cause it to go up. If we eat a healthier diet that is lower in saturated fats and full of fruits and vegetables, that can cause it to go down. Age can impact cholesterol. As we get older, cholesterol levels tend to rise.”
Dr. Hingle says cholesterol is measured with a specific blood test, which is done after fasting for 10 to 12 hours. The test results will provide various readings for cholesterol. She explains the ideal readings --
SOUND BITE: “One is the total cholesterol. And the target goal is to keep that less than 200. Then there is the good cholesterol – the HDL. And we want that one higher than 40. Then there’s the bad cholesterol, the LDL. If you have no other risk factors for heart problems, the target is less than 160.”
Dr. Hingle advises all adults to see their personal physician and have their cholesterol checked regularly. If cholesterol readings are not in a healthy range, the physician may recommend lifestyle changes as well as medication to lower cholesterol.
This is Ruth Slottag at SIU School of Medicine in Springfield.