With all the diet crazes in the media these days, you’ve no doubt heard about cholesterol and its potential detriment to your waistline. Terms like “Good” and “bad” cholesterol show up on the internet, the news, and even on cooking shows. Cholesterol is actually an important part of everyone’s body composition, but too much of it could have a serious impact on your health as well as your figure. High cholesterol can put you at risk for heart disease, heart attack or stroke. Fortunately, you can check your levels with a simple cholesterol screening, and work on treatment and prevention options to keep you feeling (and looking) your best.
Cholesterol is a component of everyone’s blood, specifically found in the lipids of the blood, and has the important job of helping the body build healthy cell membranes. However, too much cholesterol in the blood causes fatty deposits to build up in the blood vessels, forming blockages that make it difficult for the rest of the blood to pass through. A normal measure of cholesterol is 200 mg/dL or lower. High cholesterol is considered anything above 240 mg/dL. Because high cholesterol puts increased pressure on the cardiovascular system, it can cause heart disease, heart attack and stroke.
One reason why getting your cholesterol checked is so important is because high cholesterol does not exhibit any telltale symptoms. Often referred to as a silent disease, without routine checks a person may not even know his or her cholesterol is too high until more serious conditions arise. Cholesterol build-up can be a slow process that takes place over years, but it only takes a second for a clogged artery to cause a heart attack or a clot-forming stroke. Additionally, there are risk factors associated with high cholesterol that may be out of your control. Even if you eat healthy and exercise regularly (two good cholesterol management tactics) you could still be at risk for high cholesterol. For example, high cholesterol is generally more prevalent in males, and in females post-menopause. Additionally, you could have a genetic predisposition toward high cholesterol that runs in your family. Other risk factors include smoking, older age, high blood pressure, overweightness and/or a history of heart-related problems.
Another reason to get a cholesterol screening is that if you have borderline or high cholesterol, you can continue to monitor it and work with a doctor to develop a prevention or treatment plan. A diet that is low in saturated fat, a healthy body weight and body mass index, a regular exercise routine, and quitting smoking are all lifestyle changes that can help keep cholesterol in check. If you have many risk factors or have high cholesterol caused by genetics, your doctor may also be able to prescribe you a medication to help with regulation.
Luckily, checking your cholesterol levels is pretty easy. A cholesterol screening consists of a simple blood test, which can be administered in most cases right in a doctor’s office, rather than a hospital or large testing center. Doctors recommend that people with normal results continue to be screened every 3-5 years.