February 13, 2020

Heart Health: Cholesterol Basics

Cholesterol is a fatty substance produced by the liver and carried in our blood. You need some cholesterol for your body to function properly, but too much can cause buildup in the walls of your arteries. This causes arteries to narrow and can slow down or even block blood flow. HDL, the “good” cholesterol, helps prevent cholesterol build-up. LDL, the “bad” cholesterol, is the main source of build-up and blockage in the arteries.

High blood cholesterol can lead to heart disease, heart attacks, and stroke. Losing weight by eating healthy and being physically active can help bring down cholesterol levels. The cause of high cholesterol is not always clear. For some, the liver makes too much cholesterol. This condition often runs in families, so you have a higher chance if you have a close relative, such as a parent, with this problem.

Cardiovascular disease is the #1 cause of death for women in the U.S. Women are twice as likely as men to die from heart disease, and women are more likely to die withing one year after having a heart attack. Here are some things we can do to decrease our risk:

  1. Don’t smoke. Visit BeWellArkansas.org/Quit-Tobacco for resources to help you quit!
  2. If you are overweight, lose a few pounds. Even mild weight loss can reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease.
  3. Eat a high-fiber diet with plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables and 2 servings of fish per week. Reduce your intake of red meat and dairy products.
  4. Manage diabetes and high blood pressure by seeing your doctor regularly and following his or her advice.
  5. Exercise regularly. Walk for at least 30 minutes at least 5 days per week.
  6. Reduce alcohol intake. While moderate alcohol intake (no more than one drink per day) has been shown to reduce cardiovascular risk, too much can raise blood pressure and increase your risk of stroke.
  7. Socialize regularly. Healthy relationships promote heart health!