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High Cholesterol Can Lead to Heart Problems
Do you have high cholesterol? When too much cholesterol is present, plaque – a thick, waxy, fat-like substance that hardens – may form in your arteries. Over time, this excessive plaque buildup can put you at increased risk of heart disease, heart attack, and stroke – the leading causes of death for men and women in the United States.
"Cholesterol is found in certain foods, such as dairy products, eggs, and meats. Your body needs some cholesterol to function properly. However, you only need a limited amount. When there’s too much cholesterol, serious health problems may develop," says Dr. Irma Pfister, a board-certified Internal Medicine physician whose clinical interests include the treatment of hypertension, cholesterol management, and diabetes.
Help Manage Your Cholesterol Levels
It’s possible for you to limit cholesterol buildup along your blood vessels and reduce your risk of coronary artery disease by following these lifestyle guidelines from Dr. Pfister:
- Exercise regularly. Commit to moderate-intensity physical exercise for 30 minutes most days of the week. (Yes, every day would be better.)
- Eat healthier. Avoid eating saturated fats and trans fats. Eat more fiber, found in most fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and nuts. And shake the salt habit.
- No smoking. Don’t smoke, chew, or indulge in tobacco products.
- Reduce excess weight. Ask a doctor for an acceptable weight range for you and stay within it. Being overweight can raise your cholesterol levels and lead to health problems.
- Have regular medical checkups. A doctor can best monitor your cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and weight. The National Cholesterol Education Program recommends adults 20 and older have their cholesterol checked every five years – or more often if you’ve had high cholesterol in the past.
By being informed and committing to healthier lifestyle modifications, most people can attain – and maintain – desired cholesterol levels. And, if necessary, doctor-prescribed cholesterol-lowering medications can also help.
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