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Understand Cholesterol and Its Effects

Helping Seniors Maintain Healthy Cholesterol Levels

Cholesterol levels are often a source of stress, especially for seniors.  LDL cholesterol levels are higher than recommended for approximately 37% of US adults.  Higher than normal levels come with an increase risk of heart disease or stroke, problems that seniors are already at elevated risks for.  It is important that seniors have an understanding about cholesterol levels to maintain good health in their advancing years.  Seniors should also have regular doctor visits and recommended lab tests to monitor cholesterol levels. (CDC)

Cholesterol?  What’s that?

Cholesterol is something negative to be avoided at all costs, right?  WRONG!  Cholesterol is actually a natural substance that a body makes all on its own.  It helps cells to make hormones, digest food, and plays many other roles in our body.  Cholesterol is also found in the foods we eat such as eggs, meats, and other foods.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

  • High Density Lipoprotein (HDL)
    • The “good” cholesterol.
    • Clears out the LDL cholesterol.
    • High HDL numbers are encouraging.
  • Low Density Lipoprotein (LDL)
    • The “bad” cholesterol.
    • Builds up plaque in the arteries.
    • High LDL numbers increase risk for heart disease
  • Triglycerides
    • Body converts unused calories into triglycerides and stores them in fat cells.
    • Can cause harmful build up affecting the heart.
    • High levels increase risk for heart disease (Medline Plus)
  • Consequences of poor levels
    • Clogged arteries
    • Increased risk of heart disease
      • Other factors influencing heart disease are: race/ethnicity, smoking, conditions like diabetes or obesity, lack of physical activity, genetics, high blood pressure (WebMD)
    • Higher risk of stroke
    • Reduced function of the cardiovascular system (Medicinenet)

How to Manage Cholesterol Level

Because the aging process tends to put seniors at a higher risk of heart disease normally, adding poor cholesterol levels into the mix can increase that risk exponentially.  It is important that seniors keep arteries clear and functional.  Cholesterol can be managed three ways.

  1. Exercise Regularly
    1. The human body is better able to manage health conditions if you are physically active.  Exercise stimulates important natural processes.  Start with simple walks to increase your level of activity and consult your doctor about a safe exercise routine.
  2. Dietary Changes
    1. Since what you eat can affect your cholesterol levels, changing your diet can help decrease LDL and triglyceride levels in the body.
      1. Avoid unhealthy fats (saturated and trans-fats)
      2. Eat healthier fats (unsaturated fats like mono- and poly-unsaturated)
      3. Get plenty of fiber
      4. Reduce sugar intake
      5. Reach a healthy weight
  3. Medication
    1. There are medications to help lower bad cholesterol levels as well as increase HDL.  The most common medication category for help with cholesterol are the statins.  Talk to your doctor about medications to help with poor levels. (WebMD)


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