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Cholesterol School: National Cholesterol Education Month

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All across America, frazzled mothers are breathing a sigh of relief and secret gratitude as the long hot summer break finally draws to a close while September school bells ring in the new term. Time to kick off those summer running shoes, collapse into the nearest chair for two and a half minutes of well-deserved rest before jumping into the marathon that just naturally accompanies the school year.

As the children head off to school, it’s time for parents to head to school as well -- cholesterol school. September is National Cholesterol Education Month and what better time than now to give yourself a new start on managing your cholesterol levels with a quick cholesterol primer?

What is cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a waxy fat-like substance that is found in blood cells throughout the body. Some cholesterol is quite normal. In fact, your body manufactures the amount of cholesterol that it needs. Most of us are familiar with low-density lipoprotein, sometimes referred to as LDL or "bad" cholesterol, and high-density lipoprotein, known as HDL or "good" cholesterol. Too much LDL, or too little HDL cholestero,l can put you at increased risk of heart disease.

Know Your Numbers
If you don’t know your blood cholesterol levels, make a pledge to get tested in September. Cholesterol is measured by a ratio of blood cholesterol in milligrams (mg) to deciliter (DL) of blood. Your doctor will most likely look at scores for total cholesterol, LDL, HDL, and triglycerides. Generally the following scores are considered acceptable:

• Total cholesterol combined: below 200 mg/DL
• LDL levels: between 100 -129 mg/DL
• HDL levels: above 60 mg/DL
• Triglycerides: below 150 mg/DL

These scores are generally accepted as normal for those with no risk of heart disease. Acceptable levels may vary depending on your individual risk levels for heart disease. Always consult your physician and about what scores are right for you.

Know Your Risk Factors
It’s important to know whether or not you are at risk for heart disease. Your individual risk level for heart disease changes how much blood cholesterol levels you can safely carry. Risk factors for heart disease include things such as smoking, high blood pressure, low HDL, high LDL, diabetes, family history, and age. If you have two or more of these conditions, you’re generally considered at risk for heart disease. In addition, people with a previous history of heart attack, stroke, carotid artery disease or artery blockage in the neck, and peripheral artery disease or blockages in the extremities such as arms and legs, are automatically considered at high risk for heart disease.

Like most of the risk factors for heart disease, cholesterol levels are controllable through medications and lifestyle changes. The National Heart Lung and Blood Institute has multiple resources available for those interested in learning more about managing their cholesterol including tips for managing cholesterol through lifestyle changes and cholesterol and heart friendly recipes. Materials are available, targeted for individual, community group education programs, as well as heath care professionals.

For more information, visit http://hp2010.nhlbihin.net/cholmonth

National Cholesterol Education Month. National Heart Lung & Blood Institute. 23 Aug 2011. http://hp2010.nhlbihin.net/cholmonth
September is Cholesterol Awareness Month. US Department of Health &

Human Services: Federal Occupational Health. 2011. http://www.foh.dhhs.gov/NYCU/cholesterol2.asp

Cholesterol levels: What numbers should you aim for? The Mayo Clinic. 01 Jun 2011. http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/cholesterol-levels/CL00001

Reviewed August 24, 2011
by Michele Blacksberg R.N.
Edited by Jody Smith

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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