Not Just a Number: Spotlight on Cholesterol
(Miami, FL) – Hyperlipidemia, also known as high cholesterol, is a significant cause of heart disease, which is still the leading cause of death in the United States. Like most medical problems, it can be treated successfully, but only if you know you have it. So, getting regular screening for high cholesterol is very important. It is wise to begin yearly testing starting at age 40.
Many people are familiar with the number 200 as a “normal” cholesterol level. There is so much more to cholesterol these days. Doctors care more about the subsets of cholesterol than the total number now. There is the LDL (bad cholesterol), the HDL (good cholesterol) and the triglycerides (fats – pretty bad cholesterol). The American College of Cardiology recommendations for controlling cholesterol are mostly based on keeping the LDL levels low.
When should you worry? If you have no family history of heart disease at a young age, good blood pressure, no diabetes, and are less than 50 years old, an LDL of up to 160 is considered acceptable. If you have any of those risks, physicians like to see the LDL less than 130. If you’ve actually had a heart attack, we try to keep your LDL less than 70-100. Triglyceride levels should generally be kept under 300 in most cases as well. A Personal Health Record (PHR) can help individuals be proactive in tracking related information.
So what can you do to lower your cholesterol if it is too high? Diet is very important. Animal products have cholesterol, plants don’t. A diet full of healthy fruits and vegetables can really bring down those numbers. Exercise not only lowers the LDL, but raises your good HDL. Try using an online health tracker to watch your cholesterol numbers as you improve your diet and exercise more. Chances are, you will be pleasantly surprised. Sometimes, especially if you have a family history of high cholesterol, you may need medication. The most popular cholesterol medications are called Statins, and have names such as Simvastatin, Lipitor and Crestor. But, since all medications have side effects, diet and exercise should always be a first step.
Activ Doctors Online’s Health Tracker, which is included free with the online Personal Health Record (PHR), allows users to enter cholesterol and other readings into an easy-to-view format. At the next doctor’s visit, those results can easily be brought up on the physician’s computer.
Contribued by Dr. Howard Zahalsky, Activ Doctors Online National Medical Director