September is National Cholesterol Education Month. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 102 million adults in the U.S. have high cholesterol and more than 35 million of those people have levels that put them at high risk for heart disease, the leading cause of death in the U.S.
Uncontrolled cholesterol is a risk factor for heart attacks and strokes, but it can be managed through lifestyle changes. Cook County Health has a few tips for managing your cholesterol. Talk to your doctor if you are concerned.
1. Maintain a healthy weight. Moderate-intensity exercise of 150 minutes per week can lower cholesterol and blood pressure. A weight loss of as little as 10 percent can improve numbers as well.
2. Reduce saturated and trans fats in your diet. This means limiting your intake of red meat and dairy products made with whole milk, as well as fried foods. Choose cooking with healthy oils and use skim milk or low-fat dairy products instead.
A diet high in fiber can help lower cholesterol levels. Emphasize fruits, vegetables, whole grains, poultry, fish and nuts. Limit sugary foods and beverages.
3. Quit smoking. Smoking lowers your HDL (good) cholesterol, which helps remove the LDL (bad) cholesterol from your arteries. Smokers with unhealthy cholesterol levels increase their risk of heart disease.
There are no symptoms of high cholesterol. Adults should have their levels checked every five years, while children should be checked if they are overweight or have a family history of high cholesterol, heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, certain chronic conditions, congenital heart disease or childhood cancer survivorship.
Talk to your doctor if you are concerned about high cholesterol or need to have your levels checked. Call Cook County Health at 312-864-0200 if you need to make an appointment.