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Cholesterol: Use What You Know to Improve Your Health

December 21, 2016

The good, the bad, the ugly.

No matter how bad the news is about your cholesterol, there’s generally an upside.

While cholesterol is no joke, and high bad cholesterol levels can really wreak havoc with your health, there are several steps you can take to take back your health and manage your levels.

Understanding cholesterol

Fat and protein make up the waxy material that is cholesterol. The body needs cholesterol in order to generate hormones, make vitamin D and facilitate digestion.

Your body makes cholesterol, but it’s also in many of the foods you eat, working its way through the bloodstream, riding on the backs of lipoproteins.

However, the body only needs so much cholesterol. Too much of it of the bad kind of cholesterol, and your risk of stroke or heart attack increases dramatically.

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Getting to know good and bad cholesterol

There are two kinds of cholesterol:

  • Bad cholesterol, or low-density lipoproteins (LDLs), are stickier and tend to attach themselves to the artery walls. They become plaque there and eventually stop the flow of blood to the heart. At this point, you’ll have coronary artery disease, which can directly cause a stroke or heart attack.
  • Good cholesterol, or high-density lipoproteins (HDLs), play an important role in your body. They route cholesterol to the liver, which then flushes it out of the body so it won’t build up in your arteries.

Assessing your health based on cholesterol

There’s a lot you can tell about your overall health just by getting your cholesterol levels checked. You’ll have to visit your doctor and get an order for a blood draw. Be sure to fast before you have your blood drawn for optimal results.

Here’s what a “healthy” cholesterol range will look like:

  • Anything less than 200 milligrams per deciliter for a combined LDL and HDL cholesterol level is good.
  • Your LDL score, remember, this is the “bad” cholesterol, should be less than 100.
  • Your HDL level, or good cholesterol, should be higher than 60.

The reason to be concerned

If your cholesterol numbers are high for the combined score or the HDL level, there is reason to be concerned.

Even though you may feel fine, inside your body, cholesterol is hard at work. Often referred to as the “silent killer,” you won’t experience any symptoms until it may be too late  –  after a heart attack or stroke happen.

Some of the common contributors to high cholesterol include smoking, diabetes, genetic causes, poor nutrition or not exercising.

Getting your cholesterol back on track

There’s good news if you want to work on lowering your numbers. You can do a lot to manage cholesterol, including:

  • Managing your diet. Doctors generally recommend avoiding high-cholesterol foods and those high in saturated fat to help control your diet.
  • Exercising. Start moving more. The combined effort of eating better and exercising will help you lose weight (if you need to) and keep your bad cholesterol levels down and your good cholesterol levels up.
  • Taking medications. If you can’t manage your cholesterol with diet and exercise, your doctor may recommend medication. Statins such as Lipitor or Crestor  –  or generic counterparts  –  have been documented to help many patients control cholesterol.

For more tips about your health or for information about how to ensure your health insurance covers the medications and lab tests you need, contact InsureOne Benefits today!

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