Prevent High Cholesterol
08/01/2003

Picture yourself sitting for hours in front of the television, with one hand glued to the remote while the other hand makes a continuous robotic motion from a bag of chips to your mouth. Sound familiar? If so, here's one reason to kick this habit to the curb: high cholesterol.

According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI), consuming a diet high in saturated fat and cholesterol, being overweight and not engaging in physical activity are all risk factors that can lead to high cholesterol levels. High cholesterol levels mean an increased risk for developing cardiovascular diseases (CVD) or having a heart attack.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) state that more than 61 million Americans have some form of CVD with about 950,000 of those people dying of CVD each year. This comes out to an average of one death every 33 seconds.

Risk factors of high cholesterol include cigarette smoking, high blood pressure and low HDL cholesterol. These are things you can control to protect yourself from high cholesterol and heart disease. However, age, gender, heredity and family history are uncontrollable risk factors that affect cholesterol levels.

According to the NHLBI, men age 45 and over and women 55 and older face a greater risk of developing high cholesterol levels and heart disease.

Here are some steps the NHLBI recommends to help reduce your risk:

  • Get a fasting lipoprotein profile to find out your total cholesterol numbers.  This includes LDL cholesterol, HDL cholesterol and triglycerides.
  • Discuss your risk for heart disease with your physician or health care provider and take steps to reduce your risk factors.
  • Learn how to read a food label. Choose foods that are low in saturated fat and cholesterol.
  • Calculate your body mass index (BMI) with the BMI calculator and see how your weight measures up.
  • Participate in physical activity of moderate intensity—like brisk walking—for at least 30 minutes on most, and preferably all, days of the week. No time? Break the 30 minutes into three, 10-minute segments during the day.
  • Don't smoke. If you do smoke, talk with your physician about ways to help you quit.

Heart disease is the number one killer in the United States. This should make you think twice before settling into a routine of unhealthy eating and inactivity.