There are steps you can take to manage or lower cholesterol, which will in turn lower your risk of developing heart disease.

High cholesterol levels can lead to serious cardiovascular problems like a heart attack or stroke — a very scary prospect. What’s even scarier? Often there are no easily identifiable symptoms of high cholesterol, making it somewhat of an invisible danger.

It’s important to ask your physician to check your cholesterol levels at least once a year. And remember, not all cholesterol is bad. A test will report the levels of four different kinds of cholesterol in your blood: LDL, HDL, triglycerides and Lp(a).

HDL is what is typically referred to as “good” cholesterol, because it’s been shown in the past to actually help safeguard from heart attacks when it’s present in the body in high amounts. HDL is believed to transport cholesterol from other areas in the body to the liver, where it’s processed and removed from the body. In other words, HDL might be crucial for the removal of excess cholesterol. And for this reason, very low levels of HDL increases a person’s risk for heart disease.

LDL is what is typically referred to as “bad” cholesterol. This kind of cholesterol builds up in the arteries, making it more difficult for blood to pass through. A heart attack or stroke can occur when an artery becomes blocked.

Triglycerides are fat that is manufactured by a person’s body. High triglyceride counts have been linked to obesity, smoking of cigarettes, excessive alcohol consumption, high-carbohydrate diet, a high total cholesterol level (including a high LDL level and low HDL level), and development of heart disease or diabetes.

Lp(a) is a genetic mutation of LDL. While it’s still being studied, researchers believe Lp(a) may be a warning flag that a person is at a higher risk for significant LDL buildup in the arteries. And some medical professionals believe Lp(a) may even contribute to such a buildup.

According to the American Heart Association, 2,200 Americans die every day as a result of cardiovascular disease — that’s an average of one death every 39 seconds.

To maintain healthy cholesterol levels, or lower cholesterol levels, follow your doctor’s directions. Here are some lifestyle changes he or she may recommend in addition to prescribing you medication.

  • Quit smoking.
  • Limit alcohol intake.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Engage in a minimum of 150 minutes of aerobic activity per week.
  • Engage in strength-training activities a minimum of twice per week.
  • Educate yourself with regard to health and unhealthy fats in foods. (Understand which fats will raise your LDL levels and which ones won’t.)
  • Enjoy a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol.

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