Causes and Treatments of High Cholesterol

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Cholesterol is often a hot topic between seniors and their physicians. For some, genetics lead to elevated cholesterol rates. For others, lifestyle causes high cholesterol. Untreated, high cholesterol can increase the odds for a stroke or cardiac-related health condition.

For many people, a poor diet and lack of exercise are the culprits behind bad cholesterol. Let’s take a look at what is considered high cholesterol and the steps you can take to treat it.

Understanding Cholesterol Numbers

There are two different types of cholesterol. Low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL) is often referred to as "bad" cholesterol. High-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL) is good.

Too much bad cholesterol can clog the arteries. This puts you at risk for stroke or heart attack. By contrast, a high HDL may protect your heart. Ideally, a senior’s total cholesterol level should be less than 200, with HDL cholesterol greater than 50 and LDL less than 100.

Triglycerides are typically screened when your physician orders a cholesterol check. They are lipids, a type of fat found in the blood. The body converts any calories you don’t need into triglycerides. In general, normal triglycerides are less than 150 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL). Triglycerides are considered high when they reach 200.

How to Lower Bad Cholesterol

If your physician has told you it’s time to get serious about raising your good cholesterol or lowering bad cholesterol or triglycerides, you might be wondering how to do that. For some, cholesterol medications come with too many side effects. Fortunately, there are non-pharmacological steps you can try.

  1. Improve your diet: Avoid foods high in saturated and trans fats no matter how tasty they might be. Opt for foods high in omega-3 fatty acids, like walnuts, salmon, mackerel, and flaxseeds. It also helps to increase your soluble fiber intake. That helps absorb cholesterol from the bloodstream and eliminate it from the body. You can find it in oatmeal, berries, vegetables, and kidney beans.
  2. Get moving: Engaging in moderate exercise most days of the week is another way you can manage cholesterol. Walking, biking, swimming, yoga, resistance bands, and low-impact aerobics are all senior-friendly forms of exercise that maintain a healthy weight and manage cholesterol. If you’ve been leading a sedentary lifestyle, talk with your primary care physician before beginning an exercise program.
  3. Lose weight: Being overweight is linked to high cholesterol. Spending too much time sitting as well as consuming sugary foods and too many carbohydrates can cause weight gain. It may help to track food, exercise, and time spent sitting in a daily fitness journal. That will help you identify patterns that may be contributing to your weight problems.
  4. Stop smoking: While most people know smoking increases their risk for lung cancer, few realize it also contributes to lower HDL cholesterol. That type of cholesterol should be higher. When you stop smoking, your HDL quickly begins to rise. According to the Mayo Clinic, being smoke-free for one year cuts your risk of heart disease in half.

To learn more, download My Cholesterol Guide free at the American Heart Association website. It provides more information on everything from understanding your risk factors to cholesterol medications and treatment plans.

Lifestyle360 at Five Star Senior Living

Five Star communities take a holistic approach to resident wellness. From healthy meals to a wide range of activities and events designed to engage the body, mind, and spirit, our Lifestyle360 program makes it easier for residents to live their best lives.

Call us at (853) 457-8271 to learn more about the Five Star Senior Living communities near you!