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Checking Your Cholesterol - Is it Really Necessary?

October 09, 2017

According to the AHA, nearly 95 million Americans have a total cholesterol above the normal rate of 200 mg/dL. Approximately 10 million Americans have a total cholesterol over 240 mg/dL, which is considered very high. High cholesterol increases your risk for heart disease and stroke, chronic conditions that kill about 2.6 million people every year and are among the top three causes of preventable death in the rel="noopener noreferrer" country.

A recent American Heart Association (AHA) survey showed 82 percent of the 800 survey respondents knew there was a connection between high cholesterol and the risk for heart disease and stroke. Surprisingly, nearly half (47 percent) of people surveyed who had a history of high cholesterol or at least one cardiovascular risk factor said they had not checked their cholesterol in the last year.

Why Haven’t Patients Checked Their Cholesterol?

There were a variety of reasons listed as to why survey respondents did not check their cholesterol. Many respondents were either confused, discouraged or not confident in the ability to check their cholesterol — even though almost 90 percent understood the importance of managing high cholesterol. Moreover, some patients may not discuss cholesterol goals with their doctor because they are missing routine annual exams. 

Gaps in knowledge were also evident in determining what their target body weight should be, the basic difference between LDL (bad cholesterol) and HDL (good cholesterol) and how best to manage their cholesterol.

I got my Cholesterol Level, Now What?

Getting your cholesterol under control is extremely important because it can help you avoid serious chronic conditions — or even death. AHA researchers say even moderately high cholesterol levels can increase your risk for these conditions, therefore more must be done to educate and empower patients to take control of their own health.

Healthcare providers in the survey recommended several approaches for cholesterol management, including medication (79 percent), exercise (78 percent) and dietary changes (70 percent). The survey respondents felt their healthcare providers provided comprehensive knowledge of the treatment plan and the importance of staying on their treatment plan. 

In alignment with the survey, some of the recommendations healthcare providers make for cholesterol management include: eating a well balanced diet filled with lots of dietary fiber and whole grains; getting regular physical activity; and taking cholesterol medication such as statins to reduce cholesterol and prevent heart disease.

Due to the danger of high cholesterol, if you haven’t recently had yours checked, I urge you to visit with your primary care physician as soon as possible. He or she can help you determine your risk factors as well as customize a healthy lifestyle plan to help manage your cholesterol if it is at an unhealthy level. While it can be challenging to practice a healthy regimen, building healthy habits can be lifesaving, and your health care team is here to help.

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