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Prisma Health provides fast facts on cholesterol and heart health management during American Heart Month

Friday, February 22, 2019

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 102 million Americans 20 years or older have high cholesterol and more than 35 million are at levels that put them at risk for heart disease.

As part of American Heart Month, Roxie Chisholm, a family nurse practitioner with Palmetto Health USC-Medical Group who specializes in treating chronic diseases such as high cholesterol, says the “triad of the heart,” cholesterol, in relationship with blood pressure and blood sugar, should be on everyone’s radar when it comes to personal health management.

She said, “Health begins with awareness and body comprehension. Talk to your doctor, ask questions and stay informed. Those who understand their body are more likely to commit to keeping it healthy.” Chisholm provided these cholesterol fast facts:

  1. Cholesterol is a fat-like substance found in the body’s cell.
    • To conceptualize high levels of cholesterol and fat called plague, picture lard in the walls of your arteries.
    • It can build up and harden.
    • This results in narrowing and stiffening of the arteries. As arteries stiffen and narrow (atherosclerosis), it becomes more difficult for blood to flow through, increasing the chance of blood clots, heart attack and stroke.
  2. It is important to know your cholesterol levels.
    • Some cholesterol is good for you. Certain levels of high-density lipoproteins provide some protection from heart disease.
    • Uncontrolled high cholesterol can play into to serious health complications.
  3. Everyone should check their cholesterol.
    • Chisholm suggest that adults and children of all ages receive regular testing. 
    • While some are more at risk than others, it’s important for everyone to be aware of what’s going on inside their body.
    • Don’t wait for a reason to be checked. Some patients with high cholesterol experience no symptoms.
  4. The test is simple.
    • All it takes is a blood test.
    • Ask your primary care provider at a physician practice or health center today.
  5. Weight and genetics play a major role.
    • Weight: being overweight or obese significantly raises one’s chance of developing cardiovascular disease from risk factors such as high cholesterol
    • Genetics: those with a family history of high cholesterol (familial hypercholesterolemia) or heart disease are more at risk to develop these conditions.
  6. The two best ways to improve cholesterol are participating in regular exercise and implementing nutritional lifestyle changes. 
    • Exercise
      • Exercise can improve your health in many ways, including helping to lower your cholesterol.
      • Make sure you are doing something that raises your heart rate! 
    • Nutrition
      • Chisholm stresses the importance of lifestyle changes with food, rather than crash diet, for combatting high cholesterol levels. It’s important to make changes that will stick long term.
      • Read the labels before you eat. Avoid saturated fat by limiting intake of foods with Trans fats, salt and sugar listed high on the ingredient list.

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