The Impact of Cholesterol on Your Heart Health
Many people hear the word “cholesterol” and automatically have a negative reaction. However, cholesterol is not all bad. There are good and bad types, and having too much or not enough of each is what can become dangerous and put your body at risk for coronary heart disease, stroke, or heart attack.
Cholesterol is made in the liver and helps your body build new cells, insulate nerves, and make hormones. We also get cholesterol from foods like milk, meat, and eggs. When your blood has too much cholesterol, it builds up in the walls of your arteries and causes them to narrow, which slows down blood flow to the heart. This is what leads to heart disease, and if the arteries become completely blocked, it can cause a heart attack.
Unfortunately there are no noticeable symptoms of high cholesterol, so many people do not even realize their levels are too high. When you have your annual check-up, it is important to have your doctor evaluate your numbers so you can find out where you stand. Even if you already have heart disease, you can lower your cholesterol levels to reduce the chance of heart attack.
Your cholesterol levels are impacted by a variety of factors, including:
- Diet: saturated fat and trans fat increase your cholesterol levels
- Weight: being overweight can increase your cholesterol
- Exercise: regular physical activity can lower the level of bad cholesterol and increase the level of good cholesterol in your body
- Age and gender: cholesterol rises as we get older, especially for women
- Heredity: high blood cholesterol can run in the family
- Medical conditions: issues like hypothyroidism, liver disease, and kidney disease can elevate your cholesterol
- Medications: steroids and progestins can increase the bad cholesterol in your body
If you are looking to reduce your risk for heart disease:
- Control other risk factors like smoking and high blood pressure
- Follow a diet that is low in saturated fat and cholesterol
- Keep a stable, desirable weight
- Exercise regularly
- Begin medication if advised by your doctor
Remember that while not all cholesterol is bad, it can have a negative impact on your heart health if you are not aware of your numbers. Speak with your doctor today to find out more about the risks and to determine your cholesterol levels.