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Cholesterol Facts

Millions of Americans have blood cholesterol levels that are too high.  Elevated cholesterol levels can cause plaque to form in the arteries, increasing the risk of heart disease and stroke.  In fact, coronary artery disease continues to be a leading cause of death in the United States; claiming a half million lives a year.

Cholesterol is a vital part of the body, a soft, waxy substance found among the fats in every cell. It is used to form cell membranes, some hormones and other needed tissues. Diet is another source of cholesterol, since it is also found in the animal products we eat.

What is actually being described are lipoproteins. Because Cholesterol is fat-like, it requires help to move through the watery membranes of the human body. Low-Density lipoproteins (LDL - referred to as "Bad") carry cholesterol to the body's tissues for cellular growth and repair.  It is the sticky LDL's that can attach themselves to blood vessel walls, eventually causing the build-up called plaque, which reduces blood flow and increases the risk of heart attack and stroke.

High-density lipoproteins (HDL - referred to as "Good") carries cholesterol away from the arteries and back to the liver, where it's passed from the body.

We need the cholesterol our body produces, but it needs to be monitored by getting regular blood tests performed.

Your Blood Cholesterol Level

Compare your cholesterol numbers from your last lipid profile with the National Institute of Health's chart below to assess your levels:

Total Blood cholesterol levels
200 mg/dl or less - Desirable
200 to 239 mg/dl - Borderline High
240 mg/dl and above - High

LDL Blood Cholesterol Levels
130 mg/dl or less - Desirable
130 to 159 mg/dl - Borderline
High 160 mg/dl and above - High

HDL Blood Cholesterol Levels
40 mg/dl and above - Desirable

Stroke & Heart Attack

A stroke occurs when the oxygen supply to the brain is cut off because an artery bursts or becomes clogged with plaque. Without oxygen, brain cells die and the abilities or functions those cells controlled are lost.

Similarly, a heart attack happens when the blood supply to the heart is cut off by coronary artery blockage. The part of the heart that is deprived of blood suffers tissue death.

An elevated level of blood cholesterol combined with the following risk factors may increase the chances of developing heart disease.

Risk Factors:

  • High Blood Pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Overweight
  • Smoking
  • Family history of heart disease
  • Blood vessel disease
  • Postmenopausal and not on hormone replacement therapy 

Adopting a Healthier Lifestyle

Although factors such as gender and family history cannot be changed, you can take action to reduce some of the heart attack & stroke risk factors. When eating, remember to choose lower fat alternatives and include more fruits and vegetables.  Skip fatty sauces and creams, and eat less red meat. Reduce, or quit smoking & limit alcohol consumption. Try to become a little more active and strive to maintain your ideal body weight. 

And, smile because..."Life is Good"!


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