The heart is one of the most important and fascinating organs of the human body. It sends blood around your body, which is essential to life because it carries oxygen, nutrients, and waste. On average, an adult heart beats 100,000 times each day. Seems like a lot of work, right? That’s why you need to ensure this powerful pump inside you is in good shape. At Newman Regional Health, we offer diagnostics and treatments for a wide range of cardiology conditions, so make sure you don’t forget to schedule your next checkup.
Since February is Heart Health Month, we’re taking the opportunity to raise awareness about the risks of high cholesterol and the heart diseases caused by it. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, if you have high cholesterol, you are twice more likely to develop heart problems than people with lower levels. The good news is that you can do something about it and having a better understanding of the issue is helpful for prevention.
What is Cholesterol?
Oversimplifying it a little bit, cholesterol is a type of fat (lipid) in your blood. Your body already produces it to build cell membranes, make hormones, and control your metabolism, among other things. So, the cholesterol itself is not exactly a villain. The problem is we are constantly adding extra doses of cholesterol into our blood every time we eat. How do we keep track of it? Regular checkups, of course!
Basically, there are two main types of cholesterol: LDL (low-density lipoprotein) and HDL (high-density lipoprotein). The first is what people call “bad cholesterol” because it can clog your arteries. The latter doesn’t clog the “pipes” carrying your blood and that’s why it’s considered “good cholesterol”. Also, HDL works kind of like a plumber by clearing your arteries and sending part of the cholesterol back to the liver where it can be processed.
Complications of Excess Cholesterol
Excess cholesterol can block the blood flow to the heart and lead to a potentially fatal heart attack. Another severe complication is the risk of stroke, which happens when a blood vessel in the brain is blocked or bursts. As a consequence, brain damage can affect important body functions and even cause death.
Diet and Cholesterol
As you might notice, what you eat plays a major role in lowering your cholesterol levels. The first step is learning how to identify the sources of LDL and HDL. For example, trans fat increases LDL and reduces HDL, which is dangerous for your health. You can stay away from trans fat by avoiding junk food such as burgers, potato chips, cookies, and donuts. Saturated fat is another one of your body’s enemies and can be found in butter, cheese, fatty meals, and some vegetable oils. On the other hand, foods containing soluble fiber—oatmeal, apples, and cereals—will help you elevate your HDL levels and fight LDL.
We encourage you to form a healthy habit of reading nutrition labels when purchasing your groceries. However, improving your lifestyle is equally as important as correcting your diet, especially if you fit into the risk factors for high cholesterol.
Let us help you!
At Newman Regional Health, we strive to provide high quality health care for all of our patients. We have been recognized as one of the Top 10 Hospitals in Kansas and one of the Top 50 Critical Access Hospitals in the United States. Let us take care of your heart! Request an appointment through our website or give us a call: 620-343-6800 to meet with your provider to check on your cholesterol today. For a list of Newman Regional Health providers click here.