23rd MDG offers tips on controlling cholesterol

  • Published
  • By Maj. Sheri Webb
  • 23rd Medical Group
It may surprise some individuals to learn that cholesterol itself isn't bad. In fact, cholesterol is just one of the many substances created and used by our bodies to keep us healthy. Some of the cholesterol we need is produced naturally, which can be affected by your family health history, and some of it comes from the food we eat. 

There are two types of cholesterol: "good" and "bad." It's important to understand the difference and to know the levels of "good" and "bad" cholesterol in your blood. Too much of one type, or not enough of another, can put you at risk for coronary heart disease, heart attack or stroke. 

Cholesterol is a soft, fat-like, waxy substance found in the bloodstream and in all of your body's cells, so it's normal to have cholesterol. It is an important part of a healthy body because it's used for producing cell membranes and some hormones, and also serves other needed bodily functions. 

Too much cholesterol in the blood is a major risk factor associated with coronary heart disease which can lead to a heart attack or stroke. Hypercholesterolemia is the medical term for high levels of blood cholesterol. 

As mentioned previously, cholesterol comes from two sources: the body and food. The liver and other cells in the body make about 75 percent of blood cholesterol. The remaining 25 percent comes from the foods that you eat. 

Low-density lipoprotein cholesterol is considered the "bad" cholesterol. When too much of it circulates in the blood, it can clog arteries and increase a person's risk of heart attack and stroke. 

LDL cholesterol is produced naturally by the body, but many people inherit genes from their mother, father or even grandparents that cause them to make too much. Eating saturated fat, trans fats and dietary cholesterol also increases how much your body has.
If high blood cholesterol runs in your family, lifestyle modifications may not be enough to help lower your LDL blood cholesterol. You may need to also add medication to help. For this reason, it is crucial for individuals to follow up with their healthcare provider to create an action plan specifically designed for them. 

The American Heart Association supports the National Cholesterol Education Program guidelines for detection of high cholesterol: Individuals who are age 20 and older should have a fasting "lipoprotein profile" done every five years. This test is done after a nine to 12 hour fast without food, liquids or pills. It provides information about total cholesterol, LDL ("bad" cholesterol), HDL ("good" cholesterol) and triglycerides. If you are not fasting when the test is done, your medical provider won't be able to get an accurate lipid profile and may need to test you again. 

The Health and Wellness Center offers a monthly Healthy Heart class and the next class date is scheduled to be held from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Sept. 17. To register, call (229) 257-4292 or go online to https://www.php-ids.net/. If additional information is needed, contact your primary care provider. 

Your total cholesterol levels will be evaluated in addition to other risk factors such as age, family history, smoking and high blood pressure, which are all associated with heart disease. If your values are at a desirable level and there are no other risk factors for heart disease, you are considered to be at a relatively low risk for coronary heart disease. The AHA still recommends that individuals, even those with low risk, strive to control their weight, eat a heart-healthy diet, perform physical activity regularly, avoid tobacco smoke, limit alcohol to no more than one drink per day for women or two drinks per day for men, and limit beverages and foods with added sugars.