Cholesterol is good because it’s made by your body and is important to how your body functions. However, as with most things, too much of a good thing can be bad. While the waxy substance is made by your body, there’s a secondary source: your food. Both together can skew your cholesterol numbers, making your body work harder to do its job.
There are two kinds of lipoproteins that carry cholesterol throughout your body. Low-density lipoproteins (LDL) are often called bad cholesterol and high-density lipoproteins (HDL) are often called good cholesterol. If you have high LDL levels, cholesterol can build up in your arteries, making it hard for you heart to circulate blood through your body. That’s when things get ugly. When your body can’t circulate blood properly, you are at risk of heart disease and stroke. This Cholesterol Education Month, we’re going to help you understand your numbers and your risk.
Causes of High Cholesterol
The American Heart Association recommends getting your blood drawn to check your cholesterol levels beginning around age 20. If your results come back high, you can work with your provider to make lifestyle changes to better your score. That includes watching your diet and weight, staying away from tobacco products and making sure to get plenty of physical activity. Eating foods high in saturated or trans fats increase the amount of LDL cholesterol in your blood.
Unfortunately, many people inherit genes from their mother, father or even grandparents that cause them to make too much LDL. If you know this is true, you’ll want to monitor your levels closely to prevent your chances of heart disease and stroke. Women’s cholesterol levels will typically also rise during pregnancy and while breastfeeding, as cholesterol is a fat that is critical to brain development for babies.
If you have questions about your cholesterol levels or want to get them checked, talk to your UnityPoint Health primary care provider.
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