There's some good news and some bad news when it comes to Americans
and cholesterol levels, according to recent research from the Centers
for Disease Control and Prevention. While the percentage of adults with
high total cholesterol was on the decline between 2007 and 2014, as was
the percentage of people with low levels of so-called "good"
cholesterol (HDL), 12 percent of U.S adults still have cholesterol levels
that are considered to be too high, and 18 percent whose HDL levels are too low.
"Considering that cholesterol is a leading factor in heart disease,
which is the leading cause of death in America, these numbers indicate
that Americans and their physicians need to continue working to lower
cholesterol levels," says
Julie Vu, MD, a board-certified internal medicine physician at
St. Joseph Heritage Medical Group. "What's more, the data used 240 as the marker for what is considered
a high cholesterol level, but really people should aim for a number less
than 200. Americans should also shoot for a target HDL level of 60 or
higher -- remember, you want a higher number for good cholesterol, which
actually helps clear cholesterol from the heart's arteries.The latter
is bad LDL cholesterol, which causes arterial buildup. A measurement of
100 or less is considered an ideal level of LDL."
If you haven't had your blood tested for your cholesterol levels in
a while, Dr. Vu recommends doing so as soon as possible. If your numbers
are in the high range, there are a few things you can do about it, such as:
- Develop a plan with your doctor. "It's extremely important to
talk with your physician about possible medications and/or lifestyle changes
that can lower cholesterol," Dr. Vu says. "You will want to
formulate a sound medical plan to treat your heart health."
- Revamp your diet. "Again, your doctor can give you guidelines for
heart-healthy eating," Dr. Vu says, " but it's always a
good idea to cut back on processed foods, saturated fats and sugary items
while eating more produce, whole foods and healthy fats derived from sources
such as fish or nuts."
- Exercise, exercise, exercise. The American Heart Association says cholesterol
can be lowered with at least 40 minutes of activity at a moderate intensity
three to four times a week. "If you don't exercise regularly,"
says Dr. Vu, "talk with your doctor about getting started on a workout
- Snuff out cigarettes. "Smoking not only contributes to heart disease,
but it can also lower your HDL levels," Dr. Vu adds.
- Look into cholesterol-lowering medications. Dr. Vu notes, "Your physician
will be able to discuss all the possible options, such as statins or resins,
with you to determine what will be the optimal fit for you."
If you do find yourself among the 12 percent of Americans with high cholesterol,
Dr. Vu urges you to take action as soon as possible: "The CDC says
of the adults in America with high levels of bad LDL cholesterol, less
than half get treatment, which is a shame because there are so many ways
you can try to lower your cholesterol levels. It's an important part
of heart health that shouldn't be ignored."
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