Karla Larsen: Cholesterol kills | SteamboatToday.com

Karla Larsen: Cholesterol kills

September is National Choles­terol Awareness Month. Here's why it matters: High cholesterol is one of the major controllable risk factors for coronary heart disease, heart attack and stroke. As blood cholesterol increases, so does the risk of coronary heart disease. When other risk factors (such as high blood pressure and tobacco smoke) are present, this risk increases even more. Your cholesterol level can be affected by your age, gender, family health history and diet.

There are two types of cholesterol: "good" and "bad." HDL is the "good" cholesterol that helps keep the LDL, or bad, cholesterol from getting lodged into your artery walls. LDL cholesterol is produced naturally by the body, but many people inherit genes from their mother, father or even grandparents that cause them to make too much of it. Eating saturated fat, trans fats and dietary cholesterol also increases how much you have.

Even though high cholesterol might lead to serious heart disease, most of the time there are no symptoms. This is why it is important to have your cholesterol levels checked by your doctor. To reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke, work with your health care professionals to monitor and maintain healthy cholesterol levels. Even if your cholesterol levels are good now, it's not too early to develop healthy habits that can help keep your numbers in check.

You can lower your cholesterol and reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke. Take responsibility for managing your cholesterol levels. Whether you've been prescribed medication or advised to make diet and lifestyle changes to help manage your cholesterol, carefully follow your doctor's recommendations. Your diet, weight, physical activity and exposure to tobacco smoke all affect your cholesterol level — and these factors may be controlled by eating a heart-healthy diet, enjoying regular physical activity and avoiding tobacco smoke.

In recognition of National Cho­­les­­terol Awareness Month, North­west Colorado Visiting Nurse Assoc­­iation will offer free cholesterol screenings in September by appointment Tuesdays in Steam­­­boat Springs at 940 Central Park Drive, Suite 101, and Fridays in Craig at 745 Russell St. Call 970-875-1880 to make an appointment.

Community health educator, Northwest Colorado

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