What you need to know about high blood cholesterol
High blood cholesterol is one of the major risk factors for heart disease. In fact, the higher your cholesterol, the greater the risk of developing heart disease or having a heart attack. Heart disease is the #1 killer of men and women in the United States. Each year, more than a million Americans have a heart attack, and about half a million people die of heart disease.
When there is too much cholesterol (a fat-like substance) in your blood, it builds up in the walls of your arteries. Over time, this buildup causes “hardening of the arteries” so that arteries become narrowed and blood flow to the heart becomes slowed down or blocked. This may cause chest pain or even a heart attack.
High blood cholesterol itself does not cause any symptoms, so many people are unaware when their cholesterol is too high. It is important to find out your cholesterol numbers. Lowering levels that are too high lessens the risk of developing heart disease or dying from it you already have it.
A variety of things can affect cholesterol levels. These are things you can do something about:
- Diet – Saturated fat and cholesterol in food may increase your cholesterol levels.
- Weight – Being overweight tends to increase your cholesterol level.
Physical activity – Being inactive is a risk factor for heart disease. Regular physical activity can help lower LDL cholesterol and raise HDL cholesterol.
Things you can’t do anything about can also affect your cholesterol levels. These include:
- Age and gender – As people get older, their cholesterol levels rise.
- Heredity – High cholesterol can run in families.