Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance that is found in every cell of your body. Your body needs cholesterol to make hormones, vitamin D, and substances to help you digest food. However, too much cholesterol can lead to a number of complications, including heart disease and stroke.

When there is an excess of cholesterol in the body, it begins to form plaque that sticks to the artery walls. This plaque build-up can restrict blood flow and oxygen to the brain, which can cause a stroke. High cholesterol also increases your risk for heart disease due to the same plaque build-up.

› According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 95 million adults living in the United States have high cholesterol. Since there are usually no symptoms associated with high cholesterol, it’s important to understand the risk factors associated with it, how to manage it, and when you should get it checked.

 

Major risk factors of high cholesterol include:

• Unhealthy eating habits
• Lack of exercise
• Smoking
• Excess alcohol consumption
• Age
• Weight
• Heredity

 

The desired total cholesterol level in someone’s body is below 200mg/dL.
This means that there are 200 milligrams of cholesterol per deciliter of blood. If your total cholesterol level is higher than 200 mg/dL, you may be at an increased risk for stroke or heart disease. Here are some ways to reduce your total cholesterol levels:

 

• Exercise regularly throughout the week
• Develop a healthy diet full of omega 3 and limit your saturated fats
• Quit smoking
• Maintain a healthy weight
• Limit alcohol consumption

 

Everyone should have their cholesterol levels checked periodically. The chances of developing high cholesterol only increase with age, so the older you are, the more frequently you should have it checked. Gender also contributes to cholesterol levels. Be sure to ask your family doctor how often you should have your cholesterol checked so he or she can offer specific recommendations based upon your medical history and lifestyle.

 

By Juan Asuaje, MD