According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention an astounding, “94 million U.S. adults age 20 or older have total cholesterol levels higher than 200 mg/dL. Twenty-eight million adults in the United States have total cholesterol levels higher than 240 mg/dL.” What’s also alarming is that many people don’t realize they have high cholesterol because there’s often no warning signs which is why the common condition is called a ‘silent killer.’ If left untreated high cholesterol can lead to heart attack or stroke, which are leading causes of death. A simple blood test can indicate what your levels are so routine visits to your physician is always recommended. Getting your cholesterol under control is essential to your overall health and Eat This, Not That! Health spoke with Dr. Jagdish Khubchandani, MBBS, Ph.D., a professor of public health at New Mexico State University who shares the biggest mistakes not to make with cholesterol. As always, please consult your physician for medical advice. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don’t miss these Sure Signs You’ve Already Had COVID.
Dr. Khubchandani emphasizes, “This could be one of the worst mistakes for adults. More than a tenth of the adults in the U.S. have not had their cholesterol levels checked in the last five years. Knowing your cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and blood sugar are key for reducing premature mortality and decreasing the risk for chronic diseases. Such screening is widely available and can give insights about how and to what extent you have to reduce bad cholesterol levels.”
Dr. Khubchandani says, “Alcohol and tobacco use that become a habit and a regular part of an individual’s life impact metabolism and blood cholesterol. Often, these habits could be related to stress, psychological problems, and emotional distress, which is an even bigger problem for cholesterol as alcohol abuse, smoking, and stress are all independently linked to high cholesterol. Having high stress and trying to cope with alcohol or tobacco use will substantially alter blood cholesterol, raising the risk of heart disease, cancers, and stroke.”
“The vast majority of Americans do not consume adequate fruits and vegetables; reliance on fatty, fried, fast food has increased, sugary and sweetened beverages have become a part of our routine, and obesity is on the rise. All of these factors impact our cholesterol levels,” Dr. Khubchandani states. “Simple alterations to diet can help fight long term risks (e.g., heart attacks) by consuming healthier foods and lowering cholesterol levels. Also, increasing good cholesterol and decreasing bad cholesterol is related heavily with diet and individuals can select food items to ensure the balance between good and bad cholesterol.”
Dr. Khubchandani says, “Once you have checked your blood cholesterol and it turns out that you have high levels of bad cholesterol, know that you are not alone as more than 50 million Americans have this problem. The major problem is knowing that you have high cholesterol, but not being able to maintain healthy cholesterol levels or not taking action. While a diagnosis of high cholesterol may not always cause symptoms, it increases risk of heart attacks and strokes that can be life threatening. Small steps to alter lifestyle and reduce cholesterol levels are better than ending up in emergency rooms.”
Dr. Khubchandani suggests, “For cholesterol levels that are too high, medical advice should be sought as there are many reasons beyond lifestyle that can be responsible for high cholesterol (e.g. genetic, hereditary, familial). Often, medications such as statins are prescribed to help lower cholesterol levels and reduce risk of coronary artery disease. You are not alone if this is the case, more than a fifth of American adults over the age of 40 years have such medications prescribed. Not taking medications or skipping medications or taking inappropriate dosage equates to treatment failure and may continue to increase risk for heart disease and strokes.”