This Cholesterol Education Month, learn about cholesterol and its role in your health. Plus, how you can keep your cholesterol in check.
You have probably heard that high cholesterol can lead to increased risk for heart disease, stroke and heart attacks. But how does cholesterol actually work in your body? And what are some actionable steps that you can take to manage your cholesterol? Read on for the answers.
LDL vs. HDL Cholesterol
There are two types of cholesterol in the bloodstream: LDL, “bad cholesterol” and HDL, “good cholesterol.” LDL is bad because it acts as plaque, sticking to the walls of your arteries and restricting blood flow. HDL, on the other hand, is good because it acts as a scavenger, absorbing bad HDL cholesterol in the bloodstream. Lowering “bad” cholesterol and triglycerides and raising “good” cholesterol decreases the risk of heart disease and helps prevent strokes and heart attacks.
Common Cholesterol Medications
If you have high cholesterol, your doctor may prescribe you one of the medications below to manage your levels and reduce your risk for heart disease, strokes and heart attacks.
Statins are used along with a proper diet to help lower the “bad cholesterol” and fats (LDL) and raise “good cholesterol” (HDL) in the blood. They work by reducing the amount of cholesterol made by the liver.
Niacin is used with a proper diet and exercise program to help lower “bad” cholesterol and fats (LDL, triglycerides) and raise “good” cholesterol (HDL) in the blood. It is generally used after non-drug treatments have not been fully successful at lowering cholesterol. Niacin is also known as vitamin B-3 (nicotinic acid), one of the B-complex vitamins.
Resins work by removing bile acid from the body. In people with high cholesterol, this causes the liver to make more bile acid by using cholesterol in the blood, helping to lower cholesterol levels.
Cholesterol Absorption Inhibitors (ezetimibe)
Cholesterol absorption inhibitors like ezetimibe work by reducing the amount of cholesterol your body absorbs from your diet.
Lifestyle Factors in Cholesterol Health
In addition to taking medications as prescribed, eating a diet that is low in saturated and trans fat and exercising regularly are key to managing cholesterol.
To help manage cholesterol levels, limit foods high in saturated and trans fats like dairy products made with whole milk, red meat and fried fast food. On the other hand, increased intake of heart-healthy foods rich in soluble fiber like oatmeal, apples, brussel sprouts and beans can reduce cholesterol levels. Explore recipes for cholesterol management here.
The American Heart Association recommends “at least 150 minutes per week of moderate exercise or 75 minutes per week of vigorous exercise (or a combination of moderate and vigorous activity)” to improve overall cardiovascular health. Moderate exercise includes activities like brisk walking and swimming while vigorous exercise includes running and dancing.
Check the Blink Price of Your Medication
This article is not medical advice. It is intended for general informational purposes and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your physician or dial 911.
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