What is cholesterol? And why should we all pay attention?

We all carry cholesterol, which is a waxy, fat-like substance – made by the liver and found in some foods – that circulates in the bloodstream and is vital to the body’s healthy functioning.

A high level of cholesterol is unhealthy, but most of the time there are no symptoms. According to the Center for Disease Control, more than 102 million American adults have cholesterol levels above the healthy range. This can be a silent killer for many.

Too much cholesterol in the blood can be dangerous to your heart and blood circulatory system. A diagnosis of high cholesterol levels may be a significant risk to our vascular health, and possibly put your body at risk for heart disease, heart attack and stroke. This waxy substance can build up in arteries and veins, and clog blood flow and circulation.

There are two kinds of cholesterol.

— High-density lipoprotein (HDL) is also called “good” cholesterol, and it actually helps keep cholesterol from building up in the arteries, as well as helping protect against heart attack and stroke.
— Low-density lipoprotein (LDL), or “bad” cholesterol, is the main source of high cholesterol levels.

Cholesterol has two sources. The body produces about 75% of blood cholesterol, and the other 25% comes from food sources — primarily animal products. The cholesterol produced by the liver is enough to support bodily processes like digestion. However, some people inherit genes that cause their bodies to make too much cholesterol.

High cholesterol can be detected with a simple blood test, and it is generally a good practice to have this test done at your annual physical. Our elder population is a “high risk” segment for circulatory problems, and may be advised to test more frequently.

Efforts to reduce or lower cholesterol may require lifestyle changes, including:

— Regular physical activity
— Weight management
— Not smoking
— Heart-healthy diet

– John D. Miller is the founder/owner of Home Care Partners, LLC, a Massachusetts business providing private duty, personalized in-home assistance and companion care services to those needing help in daily activities and household functions. He can be reached at: (781) 378-2164; email: jdmiller@homecarepartners.biz ; or online at: www.homecarepartnersma.com