You have probably heard the words “high cholesterol” tossed around in conversations at some point or another. It seems to come up so often that we overlook what it really means. Let’s take a moment to explore cholesterol further.
Cholesterol is a waxy fat-like substance that builds up in the worst places—your arteries. Cholesterol is found in High Density Lipoproteins (HDLs) and Low Density Lipoproteins (LDLs). HDLs are the good kind of cholesterol, helping move excess cholesterol from arteries back to the liver to be broken down. LDL on the other hand, is the kind of cholesterol that you don’t want to have around. Too much of LDL cholesterol can clog your arteries and make it easier to form dangerous blood clots, which can cause a heart attack or stroke.
The problem with high cholesterol is that there really aren’t any symptoms. You could go on for quite a while without realizing that it is becoming a problem for you. You don’t want to find out when you have a major problem. Make sure you get it checked, especially when you are over the age of 20. (It’s a simple blood test!) You should also be actively checking your cholesterol levels if your family has a history of high cholesterol, heart disease or stroke, or if you are a woman who has completed menopause. These factors can all increase your risk. After the test, you’ll know you’re alright if your results show your cholesterol score to be less than 180 mg/dl.
On that note, there are many ways to reduce the amount of LDLs you have in your system, you can:
- Maintain a healthy diet by avoiding saturated and trans fats. Learn more here.
- Exercise for 30 minutes most days of the week (a little bit of physical activity goes a long way!)
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Quit smoking
- Take medicine if needed as prescribed by your doctor
Although cholesterol is always present in our bodies, try to keep your LDLs in check. You’ll be on your way to maintaining a healthier heart.
Written by Ann Shum.
Ann is a blogger and student who resides in both Boston and New York. She is majoring in Health Sciences at Boston University and has a keen interest in public health. For the summer of 2014, she also worked as the Communications Intern at the Charles B. Wang Community Health Center.