Risk Factors for Heart Disease: Cholesterol

Risk Factors for Heart Disease: Cholesterol


Cholesterol is a fat that
travels through the blood; 85% of your cholesterol
is produced by your liver and the rest comes
from the food you eat. Cholesterol plays some important
roles in our bodies such as producing hormones and
vitamin D, to name a few. When cholesterol is combined
with a protein it forms what is called a lipoprotein. There are 2 main types of
lipoproteins in your blood. Low density lipoproteins (LDL),
also called “bad” cholesterol, can cause plaque buildup on
the walls of our arteries. Too much LDL can increase the
risk of cardiovascular disease. High density lipoproteins (HDL),
also called “good” cholesterol, help the body get rid
of the bad cholesterol. Too little of HDL can
increase your risk of cardiovascular disease. We also have Triglycerides,
a type of fat, rather than cholesterol,
which is found in the blood. High levels of triglycerides are
associated with excess weight, excess alcohol or sugar
intake, diabetes or genetics. Important fact! In Canada, cholesterol is
measured in milimoles per liter and in the US, it’s
measured in milligrams per deciliters instead! What are the health risks
of high cholesterol? It can block any artery in
your body and limit blood flow to your heart muscle. This can cause chest
pain, also called angina, and lead to a heart attack. Have your cholesterol
checked if you are: A man over 40,
or a woman over 50, or anyone who is a smoker,
has diabetes, has high blood pressure,
or is overweight, has a family history of
early heart disease, stroke or high cholesterol,
is experiencing erectile dysfunction, chronic kidney
disease, inflammatory disease, HIV infection, chronic
obstructive pulmonary disease. Determining if your
cholesterol is too high depends on many factors. Your doctor will use a special
formula to calculate your personal risk level by
taking many things into consideration, such as your: age, gender, total
cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, if you’re a smoker, if you have
diabetes, your blood pressure. Once your risk is determined,
your doctor will decide if your cholesterol needs to be reduced. Your lifestyle and eating
habits may have a significant impact on your cholesterol. You can start today by: quitting
smoking, eating well by: choosing 7-8 servings
of vegetables and fruits daily, choosing whole grains, eating
foods high in soluble fiber, like oatmeal and barley
which may help to lower your LDL cholesterol. Choosing more plant based
protein like beans, nuts and seeds. Limit red meat to
once or twice/week. Eat fish at least twice/week. Limit alcohol. And lastly,
exercise. Regular exercise, such a brisk
walking 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week may help raise
your good cholesterol. It is possible that
despite these changes, your cholesterol remains high. If that’s the case, your doctor
may prescribe a medication. The most common type of
medication used to lower high cholesterol is called a Statin. Statins have been around for
a few decades and can safely reduce your risk of developing
cardiovascular disease. Speak to your doctor or
pharmacist about any concerns you might have about statins. For more information,
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