The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has designated September as National Cholesterol Education Month. Cholesterol levels are often neglected as most people don’t want to make the dietary and life changes necessary for optimal health. However, the longer your cholesterol level remains elevated, the greater your chances are of suffering a serious health problem. Let’s take a quick look at why everyone living in and near Philadelphia should do what they can to keep their cholesterol level at a healthy level.
A Brief Explanation of Cholesterol’s Importance and Potential Harm
Cholesterol is a perfectly natural part of biological functionality. If cholesterol were not present, the human body would not be capable of creating healthy cells. However, there is good and bad cholesterol. The good variety, high-density lipoprotein, known by the acronym of HDL, assists in the elimination of the bad cholesterol from the body. Bad cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein, referred to with the acronym of LDL, causes plaque to form in the arteries, heightening the chances of vascular problems, heart disease, clots, and even heart attack or stroke.
When Should Cholesterol Be Checked?
In an ideal world, cholesterol will be checked much sooner than it actually is. The average person living in Philadelphia waits until there is a serious health problem to address a cholesterol problem. Some people refuse to go to the doctor, meaning they don’t even know their cholesterol is high.
Adolescents and kids should have their cholesterol levels gauged by a medical professional. Those age 20 on up should have their cholesterol level checked once in every 4-6 years. However, those who have a high risk for cardiovascular disease due to genetics or lifestyle flaws (hamburger and fries, anyone?) should have their cholesterol checked every couple of years or even annually.
Cholesterol in the Context of Race
Did you know that African-Americans are much more likely to have higher cholesterol levels than members of other races? In particular, African-American men are likely to have elevated cholesterol. This comparably high level is the result of a unique form of a gene found in African-Americans.
Tips To Keep Your Cholesterol Under Control
The most important thing you can do to keep your cholesterol at a healthy level is practice mindful eating and maintain a healthy diet.
Do not eat mindlessly in front of the TV or computer! Read food ingredient labels when shopping for groceries. Zero in on food products that do not contain trans fats. Trans fats elevate cholesterol and even damage the heart if consumed in excess or at a high frequency.
It will also help to prepare food the right way. Cut the fat and skin off from fish and meat prior to cooking it. This approach maximizes your protein intake while minimizing the amount of fat consumed. Instead of deep fat frying or breading your food, opt to poach, bake or broil it. Choose a healthy cooking method and you will have done your part to minimize your fat consumption, ultimately keeping your cholesterol in check.
Establishing a consistent workout routine also helps to lower your cholesterol. Exercise on most days of the week to feel the difference. Weight management also helps.
Quit smoking – within just one year of quitting, your risk of heart disease will be half that of a smoker!
Drink alcohol in moderation – surprisingly enough, moderate use of alcohol is linked with higher levels of HDL (the “good”) cholesterol.
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