ROCKLAND COUNTY, N.Y. -- Everyone knows that health risks associated with elevated blood cholesterol level: heart and vascular disease, obesity, heart attacks strokes and more. However, understanding cholesterol and how to keep it in check is an important first step in warding off these cardiac maladies.
According to Dr. David Southren of Advanced Cardiovascular Care in Valley Cottage, cholesterol circulates in the bloodstream, carried on particles that can deposit in arteries. "Cholesterol comes not only from diets high in fats, but is also produced in the body," said Southren. "Some individuals are genetically predisposed to higher cholesterol levels, and a simple blood test can alert if something needs to be done."
In general, people can lower cholesterol levels through dietary changes to some extent. "Eating a heart-healthy diet can also lower the risk of other heart disease risk factors, such as diabetes and high blood pressure," said Southren. "Avoid saturated fat, which is found in fatty cuts of meat, poultry with the skin, whole-milk dairy products, and some vegetable oils such as coconut and palm oil. Instead, eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat milk products, lean meats and fish."
Additionally, regular exercise can have a modest benefit in lowering cholesterol. Coupled with a heart-healthy diet, it can reduce the risk of diabetes and high blood pressure as well.
Despite diet and exercise, high cholesterol levels are often genetically driven, making them difficult to control without medication. "If you have high cholesterol levels that you haven’t been able to lower, your doctor may recommend cholesterol-lowering medications known as statins," said Southren.
Making needed changes to your cholesterol levels today will help you keep your heart healthy for years to come.