Cholesterol Screenings & Why They Are Important
As many know, a healthy heart is one of the first steps to improving your overall health. One main factor to a healthy heart is your cholesterol levels. Cholesterol is a blood fat which is found in every body tissue. Our bodies need to produce cholesterol to make hormones, digest fats, and build healthy cells. High levels of cholesterol have been proven to be dangerous due to the risk of heart disease and clogged blood vessels. So, let’s dive into how to keep your cholesterol levels safe.
To start off, it is important to discuss when you should get your cholesterol levels checked. This is something that should be started sooner rather than later due to the risks that come with high levels. According to the CDC, for the people who are 20 or older or those who are at low risk for cardiovascular disease, you should get a cholesterol screening every 5 years. People with cardiovascular disease risk factors should get a screening more frequently. Along with that, if your family has a history of early heart attacks or heart disease, or if a person has obesity or diabetes, doctors may recommend more frequent screenings. Often a person with high cholesterol can have no related symptoms. That’s why it’s incredibly important to get regular cholesterol screenings.
Below are the types of cholesterol & the levels that each type should be at when you do get a screening.
- Total cholesterol – A measure of the total amount of cholesterol in your blood. The desirable level for this lab is about 150 mg/dL.
- LDL cholesterol – LDL is sometimes known as the ‘bad’ cholesterol because it is what builds up and blocks your arteries. This causes heart disease and increases a person’s risk of heart attack or stroke. The desirable level for this lab is less than 100 mg/dL.
- HDL cholesterol – HDL is known as ‘good’ cholesterol because it helps clear arteries of the buildup of cholesterol. The desirable level for this lab is greater than or equal to 40 mg/dL in men and 50 mg/dL in women.
- Triglycerides – This is a type of fat that is in your blood. The desirable level for this lab is less than 150 mg/dL.
So, what are the main risk factors that could potentially lead to having high cholesterol?
- Previously having high cholesterol.
- Being overweight, eating unhealthily, having unhealthy lifestyle habits, and lack of exercise are all reasons that might lead to high cholesterol levels.
- Being male is another risk factor because men tend to have higher levels than women, but both are still at risk.
- With age, your body does not clear cholesterol as easy, so there is a greater risk for the cholesterol to build up & block arteries as you age.
- If you have diabetes, specifically type 2 diabetes, there is a greater risk for high cholesterol. The reason behind this is because type 2 diabetes raises your LDL cholesterol levels & lowers your HDL cholesterol levels which can cause heart disease and/or strokes.
- Your family history of heart disease or high cholesterol levels can be a major risk for high cholesterol.
If you have any of those risks for high cholesterol – do not worry! There are ways to decrease the risk of having high cholesterol.
- Having a nutritious, healthy diet is one way you can reduce high cholesterol levels. Make sure to avoid foods that have high levels of saturated fats, sugars, and sodium. Foods that help your cholesterol levels become optimal are foods with high fiber, fresh fruits and vegetables, and foods with unsaturated fats.
- Being physically active and engaging in exercise will help your cholesterol levels become optimal. Take a walk, jog, or bike! Whatever your body is capable of that day, it is important to get at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity. Along with exercise helping in many ways, it also will let you maintain a healthy weight which is crucial for having optimal cholesterol levels.
- Quit smoking and encourage others not to smoke. It is important to stop smoking cigarettes because it damages your blood vessels and adds a great risk for heart disease and stroke.
If you want to check your cholesterol levels and get on track to a healthier lifestyle, sign up for a Health Fair or check out Health in Hand, our text-first, on demand telehealth that also includes blood chemistry screenings and Know-How health education.