Family and Consumer News: September is National Cholesterol Month

September is National Cholesterol Education month, so I would like to share with you some information from the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute.

Your blood cholesterol level has a lot to do with your chances of getting heart disease. High blood cholesterol is one of the major risk factors for heart disease. A risk factor is a condition that increases your chance of getting a disease. In fact, the higher your blood cholesterol level, the greater your risk for developing heart disease or having a heart attack. Heart disease is the number one killer of women and men in the United States. Each year, more than a million Americans have heart attacks, and about a half million people die from heart disease.

High blood cholesterol itself does not cause symptoms, so many people are unaware their cholesterol level is too high. It is important to find out what your cholesterol numbers are because lowering cholesterol levels that are too high lessens the risk for developing heart disease and reduces the chance of a heart attack or dying of heart disease, even if you already have it. Cholesterol lowering is important for everyone: younger, middle age, and older adults; women and men; and people with or without heart disease.

It is a good idea to have a blood test called a “lipoprotein profile” to find out your cholesterol numbers. This blood test is done after a nine- to 12-hour fast and gives information about your:

Total cholesterol

LDL (bad) cholesterol - the main source of cholesterol buildup and blockage in the arteries

HDL (good) cholesterol - helps keep cholesterol from building up in the arteries

Triglycerides - another form of fat in your blood

HDL (good) cholesterol protects against heart disease, so for HDL, higher numbers are better. A level less than 40 mg/dL is low and is considered a major risk factor because it increases your risk for developing heart disease. HDL levels of 60 mg/dL or more help to lower your risk for heart disease.

Triglycerides can also raise heart disease risk. Levels that are borderline high (150-199 mg/dL) or high (200 mg/dL or more) may need treatment in some people.

A variety of things can affect cholesterol levels. These are things you can do something about:

•Diet - Saturated fat and cholesterol in the food you eat make your blood cholesterol level go up. Saturated fat is the main culprit, but cholesterol in foods also matters. Reducing the amount of saturated fat and cholesterol in your diet helps lower your blood cholesterol level.

•Weight - Being overweight is a risk factor for heart disease. It also tends to increase your cholesterol. Losing weight can help lower your LDL and total cholesterol levels, as well as raise your HDL and lower your triglyceride levels.

•Physical Activity - Not being physically active is a risk factor for heart disease. Regular physical activity can help lower LDL (bad) cholesterol and raise HDL (good) cholesterol levels. It also helps you lose weight. You should try to be physically active for 30 minutes on most, if not all, days.

•Things you cannot do anything about also can affect cholesterol levels. These include:

•Age and Gender - As women and men get older, their cholesterol levels rise. Before the age of menopause, women have lower total cholesterol levels than men of the same age. After the age of menopause, women’s LDL levels tend to rise.

Heredity - Your genes partly determine how much cholesterol your body makes. High blood cholesterol can run in families.

For further information, you may contact Adrianne Vidrine at the LSU AgCenter or you can also visit our website at http://www.lsuagcenter.com.

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