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National Cholesterol Education Month

We are all aware that the foods we eat and drink can have a strong impact on whether or not your cholesterol levels are healthy or not. Each year in September we celebrate National Cholesterol Education Month, which makes it the best time for healthcare professionals, doctors, and nurses. These professionals spend time educating those interested on preventative methods, encouraging them to keep an eye on their cholesterol levels.

September’s Focus

September is National Cholesterol Education Month, making it the perfect time for doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals to encourage their patients to understand the importance of cholesterol and the potential dangers it carries when it strikes you.

After reading this article make sure you have a clear understanding how food, family background, and medications can affect your total cholesterol. Did you know? Having high cholesterol puts you at a higher risk for heart disease which is the number 1 leading cause of death in America. 

High cholesterol is one of America’s leading causes of death. If you have an unhealthy diet, and you smoke and don’t exercise, you’re putting yourself at high risk for heart attack and stroke. These conditions affect almost 102 million people over the age of 20 in the United States.  

Here are some facts everyone needs to know about high cholesterol:

  • Individuals with high cholesterol are 2 times more likely to have heart disease than those with lower cholesterol levels.
  • 73.5 people in America (31.5%) suffer from bad cholesterol also known as high low-density lipoprotein (LD
  • Less than three adults with high LDL cholesterol under control.
  • Uncontrolled or untreated high cholesterol does not have any symptoms. But it can only be diagnosed through a blood test by a licensed physician. 
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We all gain benefits from understanding our numbers and doing all we can to reduce or prevent high cholesterol. Some of the risk factors may not be in your control, such as having a family history, but there are other options to reduce and even prevent it. Eating a healthy diet, no smoking, exercise, and taking your medications as prescribed.  

What is Cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a fat, waxy-like substance found in every cell in the human body. Because high cholesterol is associated with so many medical conditions, it gets a bad rap.  However, cholesterol is an essential substance in the maintenance of cell structure, the production of vitamin D, and because it is involved in the synthesis of many hormones, such as testosterone, estrogen, and adrenal. 

There are two cholesterol sources that provide all of the cholesterol the body needs; your liver and the foods you eat. These outside sources include any dairy products, meat, and eggs you consume. 

There are 2 Types of Cholesterol



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Good cholesterol (HDL) and bad cholesterol (LDL) are two types of lipoproteins found in the human body.

High-density Lipoprotein, or HDL (Good Cholesterol), collects any excess cholesterol in your blood and takes it back to the liver where it is broken down and expelled from your body.  HDL protects you from heart attacks and strokes. 

Low-density Lipoprotein, or LDL (Bad Cholesterol), when you have too much, will cause a buildup of fats in your blood. When this happens and there are too many HDLs, hardening or narrowing of your arteries, makes it difficult for the passage of blood traveling to your heart and other vital organs. Eventually, the heart’s muscles become damaged, raising the risk for stroke or heart attack. All of your organs are affected with the intake of alcohol. 

Get Tested!

Come one, come all, Have your Cholesterol levels tested! Many times we find ourselves rolling out of the drive through with something delicious, cheesy, and terribly bad for us. Foods that make our LDL (bad cholesterol) levels go up. Just like you do your annual physical checkup, so should your cholesterol levels be taken for preventative measures as well.  

If your cholesterol levels are “within normal limits” you are good to go. Keep on exercising, swimming, riding your bike, and you will be fine. If your cholesterol levels are not within healthy limits, don’t panic. It’s most likely you may need a bit more discipline and self-determination to take the necessary steps toward getting your cholesterol levels back within normal limits.

****TAKE NOTE: If you do not take the necessary steps to correct your cholesterol levels, you stand a better chance of developing heart disease. 

Cholesterol isn’t just some waxy yellow “stuff” just sitting among your tissues like fat. It is moved by your bloodstream by carriers made of proteins and lipids (fats) called lipoproteins.  

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Lipid Profile:

  • Recommended Total: Less than 200
  • Recommended LDL: Less than 100
  • Recommended HDL: Greater than 50 in women, Greater than 40 in men
  • Triglycerides: Less than 150 (**The State of South Dakota Department of Health.) 
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Preventing and Managing High Cholesterol checklist

  1. It is important to know your cholesterol levels. 
  2. Change your lifestyle and diet for improvement of your cholesterol numbers. 
  3. Get help from your healthcare providers to control your cholesterol levels, and take medications as prescribed. 

Make Healthy Choices

Limiting foods containing saturated fats. Saturated fats come from some animals, tropical oils, such as palm oil. Foods high in saturated fats such as cheese, dairy desserts, and fatty meats may also be high in cholesterol. Choose foods that are low in saturated fats such as dark green leafy vegetables, seafood, whole grains, fruits, etc. Stick to low fat, low sodium, no added sugars.

Consume foods such as beans (pinto, black, kidney, and others), foods naturally high in fiber. Unsaturated fats are only found in olive oil, nuts, avocados, and nuts. These foods can help to  manage and prevent high cholesterol levels or promote high-density lipoproteins. 

Maintain a Healthy Weight

Obesity and people struggling with being overweight are also at risk for raised levels of LDLs (bad cholesterol) in their bloodstream.  Excess body fat has an impact on how your body uses cholesterol and slows down your body’s ability to expel LDL cholesterol from your body and therefore raises your risk for stroke and heart disease. Here’s what you can do:

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To find out if your weight is in the health range, some physicians calculate your BMI (body mass index). If you know your height and weight, calculate your BMI at CDC’s Assessing Your Weight website. Talk to your doctor about your weight and eating habits and what is a good weight for you. 

Get Regular Physical Activity

Exercise can help you to maintain a normal (healthy) weight and lower your blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

What you can do:


  • Get the whole  family involved. The Surgeon General recommends for adults 2 ½ hours per week. 
  • Make exercise part of every day. Take the stairs, rather than the elevator, park farther away from the store. 
  • Jumping jacks during the commercials

Learn more and get more tips at CDC’s Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity website Learn more and get more tips at CDC’s Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity website.

Limit Bad Habits

Drinking too much alcohol can raise your cholesterol levels and your triglyceride levels. Here’s what you can do:

Limit Alcohol Intake

Avoid drinking too much alcohol. Men should have no more than two drinks per day, and women should have no more than one.

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Quit Smoking

Smoking causes damage to  your blood vessels creating a hardening of the arteries, and highly raises your risk of developing heart disease. If you don’t smoke, DON’T Start! If you smoke, do everything in your power to cut down and then quit. High cholesterol is normally managed and treated by a combination of prescribed medications for lowering cholesterol and adjusting your lifestyle.  

Check your Cholesterol Regularly

If you don’t have high cholesterol, get tested for cholesterol levels every 4 to 6 years. If you do have high cholesterol, follow your treatment care team more or less often according to your lab reports. Talk to your healthcare team to learn about what is the best timeline for you.  Your treatment plan for high cholesterol depends on your overall risk of stroke and heart attack and your present cholesterol levels. 

Your doctor may prescribe medicine if you have peripheral arterial disease, and already suffered a stroke or heart attack. Or, if your LDL cholesterol level is 190 mg/dL or higher. If you are 40–75 years old and have a high risk of developing heart disease or stroke and an LDL cholesterol level of 70 mg/dL or higher, see your doctor.

***Disclaimer: This is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of your doctor or other health care provider. We encourage you to discuss any further questions or concerns you may have with your provider.***

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