September is National Cholesterol Education Month and the perfect time to learn more about this term you’ve heard in the doctor’s office or during the health news segment of the nightly news broadcast. But do you really know what it means and how it effects your health?
What Is Cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a waxy, fatty chemical which is part of the outer lining of cells within the body.
Cholesterol is necessary to create vitamin D, hormones and substances to aid in digestion of foods, but too much can cause artery-wall build up; which increases the chance for strokes and heart disease.
Eating well, regular exercise, watching your weight and not smoking however, can help control and prevent high cholesterol and its negative health consequences.
“Good” And “Bad” Cholesterol
There are 2 different types of cholesterol, both unhealthy, known as “bad” cholesterol (or high cholesterol) and healthy, known as “good” cholesterol.
Low-density Lipoproteins (LDLs)
LDLs carry cholesterol to the tissues in the body. This is what is known as “bad” cholesterol, since higher LDL levels are linked to an increased risk of stroke and heart attack.
High-density Lipoproteins (HDLs)
HDLs carry excess cholesterol to the liver. This organ processes the cholesterol and it is excreted from the body. HDLs are referred to as the “good” cholesterol, since they can help to protect your heart and lower the likelihood you will develop heart disease and other health problems.
Factors Which Determine Your LDL Level
Some of the factors which have a bearing on your LDL level are beyond your control. These are:
- Your family history
Your genetic makeup determines how quickly your body makes LDL cholesterol and removes it from your blood. Age and gender also play a role. During childbearing years, women’s total cholesterol levels are lower than men of the same age. After the age of 50, the cholesterol levels of many women will be higher than men of the same age. As both sexes age, their blood cholesterol levels increase until around age 60-65.
Other factors which have a bearing on your bad cholesterol levels are elements where you have some control:
- Your weight
- What you eat
- Your activity level
If you are overweight and have a high LDL cholesterol level, exercising and losing some weight may help. This tactic may also help to raise your good, HDL cholesterol levels.
See your doctor before starting an exercise program if you are a senior or have not been active for some time.