High cholesterol is a rampant problem in the America, especially in the southern states. According to the CDC, the prevalence of high cholesterol in people older than 20 is around 12%. However, in Arkansas that number increases to 31%. What exactly is cholesterol? When is it high? And what can be done to prevent it? Keep reading to find out.
Cholesterol is a molecule that circulates in your blood and is used by the body to help build cells and produce hormones. Although it serves a very important purpose too much of anything can be bad. Cholesterol is divided into two mains parts: LDL and HDL. LDL which is the “bad” kind and HDL the “good” kind. The modern diet consists of a lot of saturated and trans-fats. As a result, we receive a higher proportion of LDL (bad cholesterol) in our daily diets. The reason why high cholesterol is so dangerous is because it can lead to strokes and heart attacks. Both of which are two of the top ten causes of death in America.
Contrary to popular belief you cannot feel when your cholesterol is high. The best treatment is prevention. This includes eating a healthy diet that has more lean meats, fruits, vegetables, and avoiding processed food. Exercising three times a week for at least 15-20 minutes is also a must. Smoking should be stopped at all costs as it exponential increases your risk for the complications of high cholesterol (stroke and heart attack). The most important preventative step is to get tested by your primary care physician. If you are older than 40 years old, it is recommended you get screen for high cholesterol.
Depending on how high your cholesterol is prevention may no longer be enough. If that is the case it is important to meet with your primary care physician to discuss the options in terms of medications. The standard of care medicine for high cholesterol is statins. You have probably seen commercials on TV for Lipitor or Crestor, these are examples of statins. These medicines are extremely effective and simply put work by decreasing production levels of LDL (bad cholesterol).
In summary, heart attacks and strokes are medical problems that we are all familiar with. There is a common thread between these two deadly killers and that is high cholesterol. Instead of waiting until one of these events to happen to you, it is important to get ahead of the game by monitoring and improving your cholesterol. Primary prevention is the best prevention!
Dr. Deji Adedokun is a 2nd year Internal Medicine Resident. Dr. Adedokun is accepting patients at the WRMC Internal Medicine Clinic 870-262-1530.