There are many simple tests we can take to ensure our health is on the right track, and a cholesterol screening is toward the top of the list. September is National Cholesterol Education Month, making now the right time to get your blood cholesterol checked (especially if it’s been a while since your last test). High cholesterol is asymptomatic, which means that getting this simple blood test is the only way to know your risk. If your cholesterol is high, you may be at risk of developing heart disease and other related conditions, but there are steps you can take to reduce your cholesterol and improve your overall health.
What should you know about cholesterol?
- High cholesterol increases risk for heart disease and stroke, two of the top five leading causes of death in the U.S. (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).
- Ninety-five million American adults aged 20 or over have high cholesterol, at or above 200 mg/dL. Among them, about 29 million of them have levels of 240 mg/dL or higher, which puts them at high risk for heart disease (CDC).
- While some cholesterol is needed for your body to function normally, many people have much more than they need, often due to dietary choices. Excess cholesterol can build up in your arteries, eventually narrowing them and putting you at higher risk of heart disease and stroke. (American Heart Association)
How often should you get screened?
The American Heart Association recommends that adults 20 years of age or older get their cholesterol screened every four to six years. You can go to your doctor for a blood test called a lipoprotein profile, which can test your total cholesterol levels, including LDL (low-density lipoprotein, or “bad” cholesterol), HDL (high-density lipoprotein, or “good” cholesterol), and triglycerides. Or, if your company holds a yearly on-site health screening, you may also be able to get a cholesterol screening there. Depending on the results, it is a good idea to follow up with your primary care provider to discuss next steps.
What are desirable cholesterol levels?
|Total cholesterol||Less than 200 mg/dL|
|Low LDL (“bad”) cholesterol||Less than 130 mg/dL|
|High HDL (“good”) cholesterol||60 mg/dL or higher is best|
|Triglycerides||Less than 150 mg/dL|
How can you lower cholesterol?
If your screening determines you have higher-than-desired cholesterol levels, it is possible to make simple but healthy lifestyle changes that can help reduce your cholesterol, including:
- Eating low-fat, high-fiber food, like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains
- Quitting tobacco
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Exercising—adults should aim to get 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate exercise weekly, or 1 hour and 15 minutes of vigorous physical activity each week.
- Additionally, your doctor may prescribe medication to help treat your high cholesterol
For Health Advocate members
If you are a Health Advocate member with access to the Wellness Coaching program, call your coach for help making and sticking to healthy lifestyle changes that can lower your risk for disease.