It’s a “silent killer” many are unaware of, but should be.
Earlier this month, the American Heart Association reported nearly half of American adults are living with some form of cardiovascular disease.
The statistic was revealed in a new report published in the American Heart Association’s journal, “Circulation”, which reported its annual update on the disease.
Along with high blood pressure, high cholesterol plays an important role when it comes to the development of heart disease. Heart disease increases an individuals risk of having a heart attack, stroke or other vascular problems.
Timothy Amborski, a family nurse practitioner who joined Dr. Shawn Pertunen at McLaren Northern Michigan Family Medicine last year, said many people — men in particular — are unaware of their cholesterol numbers until they are well into their 40s or 50s.
“There’s not a high cost to taking care of yourself and maintaining health,” Amborski said. “I think the perception is I’m young, I’m healthy and I don’t need to go to a doctor, but you need to maintain your health so you don’t have complications.”
A typical health screening can detect the risk of heart disease and high cholesterol as well as diabetes, thyroid, hypertension and other risk factors.
“You don’t wait until you have a heart attack to go see a doctor,” Amborski said. “The benefit of it is to know if you have any risk factors for disease. Cholesterol is such a silent killer because people don’t get it checked or don’t know what their levels are.
“Just getting a basic screening and getting a physical, making sure your baseline labs aren’t in danger keeps people out of trouble when they are in their 40s and 50s.”
According to the American Heart Association, LDL, or “bad” cholesterol is important to monitor as it can lead to the formation of plaque in the blood vessels in the body. When LDL levels in the body get too high, they may start to form fatty streaks on the walls of your arteries called atherosclerosis.
The condition narrows the arteries and increases the risk for heart attack, stroke and peripheral artery disease, or PAD.
Other risk factors which may help contribution to high LDL levels include smoking, obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, lack of exercise and genetics. Some people have an inheritable form of high cholesterol, known as familial hypercholesterolemia, which drastically increases the level of cholesterol.
Addressing those unhealthy factors will help reduce the chance of developing heart disease and other diseases like diabetes.
According to the American Heart Association, changing lifestyle behaviors will go a long way toward bringing your cholesterol numbers in line.
Lifestyle changes you may need to make include eating a heart-healthy diet (limiting saturated fat to 5 to 6 percent of daily calories and minimizing the amount of trans fat you eat), becoming more physically active (just 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise a week is enough to lower both cholesterol and high blood pressure) and quitting smoking.
The American Heart Association also recommends all adults 20 or older have their cholesterol and other traditional risk factors checked every four to six years. After that, people should work with their doctor to determine their risk for cardiovascular disease and stroke.