September Is National Cholesterol Education Month
Children, young adults and older Americans can have high cholesterol. National Cholesterol Education Month is also a good time to learn about lipid profiles and about food and lifestyle choices that help you reach personal cholesterol goals.
What is cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance found in your body and many foods. Your body needs cholesterol to function normally and makes all that you need. Too much cholesterol can build up in your arteries, narrowing your arteries and putting you at risk for heart disease and stroke.
How do you know if your cholesterol is high?
Having high cholesterol doesn't generally have any symptoms, which is why many people do not know that their cholesterol levels are high. However, your primary care physician or company-sponsored health screening can test for cholesterol levels. High cholesterol can be controlled through lifestyle changes or medications.
How often should you have your cholesterol checked?
The National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP) recommends that adults aged 20 years or older have their cholesterol checked every 5 years. A simple blood test called a lipoprotein profile can measure your total cholesterol levels, including LDL (low-density lipoprotein, or "bad" cholesterol), HDL (high-density lipoprotein, or "good" cholesterol), and triglycerides.
What can you do to lower high cholesterol?
In addition to prescribed medications, you can lower your cholesterol through lifestyle changes:
- Eat low-fat and high-fiber foods such as fresh fruits, fresh vegetables, and whole grains.
- For adults, getting at least 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate or 1 hour and 15 minutes of vigorous exercise each week.
- Maintain a healthy weight.
- Don't smoke or quit smoking.