September is National Cholesterol Education Month. What is cholesterol? How can it hurt you? What can you do to get it under control and keep it there? What are some myths and facts about cholesterol? Keep reading to find out more fun and interesting information.

What is Cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance that your body needs to build healthy cells, make hormones, Vitamin D and helps to digest foods. When too much cholesterol is in the body, plaque builds up in the walls of the arteries. Over time, the buildup can cause the arteries to narrow, not letting blood flow to the heart. Without enough oxygen-rich blood flow chest pain, heart attack or stroke can happen.

Interesting Facts

  • Smoking is a major risk for heart disease. Smokers are 2-6x more likely to suffer from a heart attack vs. nonsmoker.
  • A year after quitting smoking can lower risk of heart disease by more than half.
  • 2 in 3 Americans don’t have high cholesterol in control.
  • Nearly 800,000 people die each year from cardiovascular disease.
  • Every 40 seconds someone dies from heart attack, stroke or other vascular diseases.

Myths and Facts

Cholesterol: What to Know

Myth: Only people who are overweight or obese have high cholesterol.
Fact: Anyone of any body type can have high cholesterol.

Myth: If I take cholesterol medication that means I can eat whatever I want and not exercise.
Fact: It is very important to eat right and exercise regularly even while taking medication.

Myth: I don’t need to check my cholesterol until I am in my 40’s or 50’s.
Fact: American Heart Association recommends checking levels around 17-21 years old then every 5 years after that as long as no other risk factors are low.

Myth: Diet pop is way better than sugar pop.
Fact: Diet pop is a little better than sugar pop. The diet pop makes a person crave more of the high fat, sugary or carb full foods. Drinking water is much better than diet pop. It helps the body clean and eliminate buildup of cholesterol waste from body.

Talk to your Doctor about getting a lipid panel done every 5 years, but more often if you have family history or have increased levels. Ask your Doctor what he/she thinks is best way to lower cholesterol or keep it in check. Always ask your Doctor before changing your diet and exercise plan to make sure it’s right for you.

Cholesterol Levels Should Be Checked If:

  • Have diabetes
  • Overweight
  • Smoker
  • High blood pressure
  • Family history

Ways to Lower Levels:

  • Exercise 30 minutes a day, every day to help lower LDL and raise HDL
  • Eat 5-9 servings of fruits and veggies every day
  • Eat heart healthy foods
    • No processed foods
    • No high fat or fried foods
    • No refined sugar
    • No fast food
  • Do eat:
    • Fruits and veggies
    • Low fat eat
    • Nuts and seeds
    • Healthy fats (olive oil, not butter)

In conclusion talk to your doctor about your cholesterol levels and how to keep them under control. Don’t smoke or try to quit smoking. Keep a healthy weight and exercise regularly. Try new ways to exercise and have fun with it. Also eat a heart healthy diet and drink plenty of water. Eating new and healthy foods is a good way to stay in control of your cholesterol.

The Laboratory Services Department at Windom Area Health offers Direct Access Lab Testing with options for lipid panels, cholesterol and more. Go to the Laboratory Services Page or call 507-831-2400 and indicate you have questions about Direct Access Lab Testing.

By Dixie Duerksen, Medical Laboratory Technician

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