According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), heart disease is the number one leading cause of death in the US More than one million Americans have a heart attack or stroke each year and 800,000 die of heart disease. High blood cholesterol is a major risk factor for heart disease, causing heart attack and stroke.
Aspirus Health recognizes September’s National Cholesterol Education Month as an opportunity to encourage people to take the necessary steps to prevent or reduce high cholesterol.
“The way we live has a big effect on our cholesterol levels. Even if you’re taking cholesterol-lowering medications to manage it, you still need to eat well and be active, ”says Aspirus Cardiologist Dr. Daniel Krause. “Moderate lifestyle changes can make a significant impact.”
According to the AHA and the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), these healthy lifestyle choices can help prevent or treat high cholesterol:
Make healthy eating choices.
Limit foods that are high in saturated or trans fats, sugar, and sodium (salt), as eating lots of foods like this may contribute to high cholesterol and related conditions, such as heart disease. Choose foods high in fiber and in unsaturated fats, such as fresh fruits, veggies, and nuts.
Maintain a healthy weight.
Excess body fat affects how your body uses cholesterol and slows down your body’s ability to remove LDL cholesterol from your blood. The combination raises your risk of heart disease and stroke. Talk to your provider about what a healthy weight is for you and work with them on a plan to help you reach or maintain a healthy weight.
Get regular physical activity.
Physical activity can help you maintain a healthy weight and lower your cholesterol and blood pressure levels. Healthy adults aged 18 to 64 should to 30 minutes of moderately intense exercise five days a week and do strengthening exercises twice a week. Older adults may need to adjust the intensity of their activity and add flexibility and balance exercises if they are at risk for falls.
Smoking damages your blood vessels, speeds up the hardening of the arteries, and greatly increases your risk for heart disease. If you don’t smoke, don’t start. If you do smoke, quitting will lower your risk for heart disease.
The alcohol limit.
Too much alcohol can raise cholesterol levels and the levels of triglycerides, a type of fat in the blood. Men should have no more than two drinks per day, and women should have no more than one.
The AHA recommends that all adults age 20 and up should have their cholesterol tested every four to six years, and more frequently for people with cardiovascular disease risk factors. Talk to your primary care provider if you think you may be due for a cholesterol check.
To learn more about heart care services at Aspirus, visit www.aspirus.org/heart-vascular-services.