Q. High cholesterol runs in my family. What is it, and what can I do about it?
A. September is National Cholesterol Education Month and a perfect time to answer this question. Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance found in the body. Our bodies need some cholesterol to function. However some people have too much cholesterol in the body, perhaps because of genetics such as what you describe or an unhealthy diet. When there’s too much cholesterol, your arteries become clogged, raising your risk of heart attack or stroke.
Since you have a family history of high cholesterol, it’s definitely a good idea to ask your doctor to check your levels. What results do you want? Your total cholesterol should be less than 200. Your LDL level should be less than 100, and your HDL level should be 60 or higher. What are LDL and HDL? You’ve probably heard people talk about good and bad cholesterol. Good cholesterol is called HDL. It helps clean fat and the bad cholesterol from your blood vessels. Remember H stands for Healthy and the Higher your HDL cholesterol the better. LDL is the bad cholesterol responsible for clogging your arteries. Remember L stands for Lousy and the Lower it is the better.
If you discover your numbers are higher than ideal, your doctor will likely recommend lifestyle changes first, followed by medication if that doesn’t work. The biggest lifestyle changes you can make to improve your cholesterol are losing weight, exercising regularly and quitting smoking. Cut back on foods high in saturated fats, trans fats and cholesterol. Instead eat more fruit, veggies, whole grains, beans, fish, turkey, chicken and lean cuts of meat in your diet.
If your doctor does recommend medication, ask about the best time to take it. Many times, nighttime dosing is recommended because once you stop eating, your liver senses lower levels of cholesterol in the body and starts making more.
– Kelly Snell
Director of Professional Services
In Home Solutions PLUS