September is National Cholesterol Screening Month! This serves as a good reminder to have your cholesterol levels checked. High levels of this fatty, waxy substance can build up in the arteries, raising the risk for heart disease, the leading cause of death, and for stroke, the fifth leading cause of death. Getting a simple blood test is the only way to determine your risk. If your cholesterol is high, there are simple steps to help reduce it and improve your health. Here’s what you need to know:
When to get screened. The American Heart Association recommends that all adults age 20 or older have their cholesterol and other traditional risk factors checked every four to six years as long as their risk remains low. People with cardiovascular disease and those at elevated risk may need their cholesterol and other risk factors assessed more often. Ask your doctor how often you should get screened.
What’s tested. Your doctor can give you a lipoprotein profile test, which tests your blood for total cholesterol levels, LDL (low-density lipoprotein, or “bad” cholesterol), HDL (high-density lipoprotein, or “good” cholesterol), and triglycerides (another lipid in the blood, often related to foods you eat).
If your company offers onsite health screenings that include cholesterol screening, follow up with your doctor to discuss the results.
Talk with your provider about what your results mean for you and how to manage your cholesterol.
How to manage undesirable cholesterol levels
- Eat low-fat, high-fiber food, like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
- Quit tobacco.
- Maintain a healthy weight—and watch your waistline! Too much abdominal fat is linked to high cholesterol.
- Exercise—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.