September is National Cholesterol Awareness Month — a good time to find out what your cholesterol numbers are, to learn about your risk for high cholesterol and what you can do to keep your levels in check.
More than 98 million Americans 20 and older have high blood cholesterol — one of the most controllable risk factors for heart disease and stroke, according to the American Heart Association.
High cholesterol doesn’t always have symptoms. So it’s important to have your doctor check your cholesterol levels starting at least by age 20, and earlier if you have a family history of heart disease.
The two types of cholesterol are high-density lipoprotein, or HDL (“good” cholesterol), and low-density lipoprotein, or LDL (“bad” cholesterol).
Too much bad cholesterol or not enough good cholesterol can increase your risk for heart disease or stroke. The ideal cholesterol level for most people is less than 200 mg/dL.
The amount of triglycerides (or blood fats) in blood is another important barometer of your health; high levels are associated with coronary heart disease, diabetes and fatty liver disease. Your doctor can measure your triglyceride levels with the same test for cholesterol. A normal triglyceride level should be less than 150 mg/dL.
Your liver and other cells in your body make about 75 percent of blood cholesterol. LDL cholesterol is produced naturally by the body, but many people inherit genes from their mother, father or grandparents that cause them to make too much. The other 25 percent comes from the foods you eat.
The kinds and amounts of foods you eat, weight, physical activity and exposure to tobacco may affect your cholesterol and triglyceride levels. These factors may be controlled by:
- Eating a heart-healthy dietary pattern.
- Engaging in physical activity.
- Controlling your blood pressure.
- Maintaining a healthy weight.
- Not smoking and avoiding being around others who do.
The American Heart Association has information and tools about cholesterol and how to reduce your risk for heart disease and stroke at www.heart.org/cholesterol .
|The American Heart Association/American Stroke Association receives funding mostly from individuals. Foundations and corporations donate as well, and fund specific programs and events. Strict policies are enforced to prevent these relationships from influencing the association’s science content. Financial information for the American Heart Association, including a list of contributions from pharmaceutical companies and device manufacturers, is available at www.heart.org/corporatefunding .|
About the American Heart Association
The American Heart Association is devoted to saving people from heart disease and stroke — America’s No. 1 and No. 3 killers. We team with millions of volunteers to fund innovative research, fight for stronger public health policies, and provide lifesaving tools and information to prevent and treat these diseases. The Dallas-based association is the nation’s oldest and largest voluntary organization dedicated to fighting heart disease and stroke. To learn more or join us, call 1-800-AHA-USA1 or any of our offices around the country, or visit heart.org .