We hear a lot about high cholesterol and the fact that it’s a risk factor for developing heart disease. But since high cholesterol has no symptoms, how do we know if we’re at risk for developing high cholesterol?
Are there any clues in our family history, diet or lifestyle that would we could consider early warning flags that would cause us to sit up and take note?
As it turns out, just as with most health conditions, there are warning signs that we should be aware of. These include:
1. Diet – Remember the old saying “You are what you eat?” It’s true. If you have a diet high in saturated fat or cholesterol in the food, then your cholesterol levels will go up. If you lower the amount of saturated fat or cholesterol in your food, your blood cholesterol levels will go down.
2. Weight – (Sigh… Why is this one ALWAYS on every list???) Yes, ladies, it appears that once again our weight works against us. If you are overweight, it not only puts you at an increased risk for developing heart disease but also for developing higher cholesterol levels. If you lose weight, you’ll lower your bad (LDL) cholesterol level as well as your total cholesterol level. In addition, you’ll raise the good (HDL) cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
3. Activity level - Exercise! Exercise! Exercise! The National Heart Lung and Blood Institute recommends 30 minutes every day. I don’t think chasing the grandkids around the table counts! Remind me to walk more.
4. Age/Gender – Age plays a factor for men and women alike. Bad cholesterol levels simply tend to rise as we age. Women get a double whammy in that our bad cholesterol levels rise after menopause. We can’t change our age or gender but we can be aware of the risk factors associated with both and educate ourselves on how we can be healthier despite age or gender.
5. Heredity – I was not really aware of this risk factor for developing high cholesterol. I was surprised to learn that high cholesterol does run in families. That actually makes a lot of sense to me when I think about it but it was a new piece of information.