Cholesterol isn’t harmful in the right amounts. In fact, cholesterol is crucial to your body. The challenge is that the body only requires a small amount of this waxy, fat-like substance, and your liver produces all of the cholesterol you need.
The body has ways of getting rid of extra cholesterol. However, a combination of lifestyle and genetic factors leads to high cholesterol, overwhelming the body’s ability to get rid of it. Cholesterol levels that remain high put your heart health at risk.
Cardiovascular physician Majed Chane, MD, and the team at CA Heart and Vein Specialists in Huntington Beach, California, encourage patients to prioritize their heart health and take steps to lower cholesterol. Here are some important facts about cholesterol.
Cholesterol serves several important functions, such as helping the body generate new cells, protecting neurons, and producing hormones. However, when cholesterol levels rise too high, it becomes a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease.
A cholesterol level that’s too high is a significant risk factor for coronary heart disease and stroke. If you have other risk factors in addition to high cholesterol levels, the likelihood of developing heart disease increases.
As levels of cholesterol in your blood rise, it accumulates and starts sticking to artery walls, forming plaque. Atherosclerosis, one of the major heart diseases, is caused by a buildup of cholesterol in the arteries. This affects blood flow to the heart muscles.
If blood flow to the heart is completely cut off, a heart attack may occur. Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol is the major contributor to the buildup in the arterial walls. Increased triglyceride (fat) levels may also lead to plaque formation in the arteries.
There are effective ways to lower your cholesterol and slash the chances of developing related health complications. Here are a few key tips.
Saturated fat and trans fat have the most potent impact on increasing LDL cholesterol. Saturated fats are found in animal products, while trans fats are found in baked goods, crackers, and other processed foods. The US Food and Drug Administration prohibits food manufacturers from adding artificial trans fats to foods, which means you can focus on reducing your intake of saturated fat.
Obesity is also a risk factor for having high cholesterol, and trimming down can help balance out cholesterol levels. Even modest weight loss has a significantly favorable effect on cholesterol.
Exercise helps increase high-density lipoprotein (HDL), often referred to as good cholesterol. Moderate exercise several times per week lowers your overall cholesterol and improves heart health. Getting physical activity also helps you lose weight if you’re overweight. Set an exercise goal of 30 minutes per day, five times per week.
Smoking lowers HDL levels, making it more difficult for your body to process and get rid of LDL. Quitting smoking not only improves your overall cholesterol numbers, but it also improves your overall health.
Dr. Chane may recommend cholesterol-lowering medication if your cholesterol levels remain high despite diet and lifestyle changes.
While heart disease remains the No. 1 cause of death among adults in the United States, it isn’t an inevitable consequence of aging. You have the power to make some positive changes and protect your heart health by keeping cholesterol in check.
The CA Heart and Vein Specialists team can help you along your heart health journey. For a heart health evaluation and for all of your heart health needs, call our office or book an appointment online today to schedule a visit with Dr. Chane.