September is National Cholesterol Education Month. This health observance serves as a great reminder to get your cholesterol checked and take steps to lower it if it’s high. High cholesterol is asymptomatic, which means that getting a cholesterol screening is the only way to know your risk.
Did you know…?
- According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), high blood cholesterol is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke—the first and fifth, respectively, leading causes of death in the United States.
- More than 102 million American adults aged 20 or over have high cholesterol, at or above 200 mg/dL. And over 35 million of them have levels of 240 mg/dL or higher, which puts them at high risk for heart disease.
- You actually need some cholesterol for your body to function normally. But your body already makes all that you need. Excess cholesterol can build up in your arteries, eventually narrowing them and putting you at higher risk of heart disease and stroke.
How often should you get screened?
The National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP) recommends that adults 20 years of age or older get their cholesterol screened every 5 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.
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||40 mg/dL or higher for men; 50 mg/dL or higher for women|
|Triglycerides||Less than 150 mg/dL|
Ways to lower your cholesterol levels
Healthy lifestyle changes can help you lower your cholesterol:
- 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.