September is National Cholesterol Education Month; Have you had your cholesterol checked lately?

Brandy Strub, RD/LD, Dietitian ...
Brandy Strub, RD/LD, Dietitian ...

by Brandy Strub, RD/LD, Dietitian, Veterans Memorial Hospital

September is National Cholesterol Education Month. Per the latest information from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), it is recommended that cholesterol be checked for kids once between ages 9-11 and again between ages 17-21. Children with obesity or diabetes may need to be screened more often.

For healthy adults, it is recommended that they be checked every 4-6 years. Those with heart disease, diabetes, or a family history of high cholesterol should be checked more frequently.  

Risk factors for high cholesterol include: family history, diet high in saturated and trans fats, low physical activity, smoking, age, sex, type II diabetes, and obesity.

Wellness testing can be performed at Veterans Memorial Hospital with lipid panel, a partial package that includes glucose and TSH as well, or the complete package  that includes glucose, TSH, Hgb, BUN, Creatinine, Sodium, Potassium, Calcium, Uric Acid and AST.

A lipid panel consists of the following:
• Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or “bad” cholesterol. High levels may be caused from eating an excessive amount of saturated fat (found in all animal products), and leads to plaque build-up in your arteries, which in turn can lead to heart disease or stroke. Desirable levels ~100.
• High-density lipoprotein (HDL) or “good” cholesterol. This helps get rid of the bad cholesterol. The higher the number, the better, and it can be raised with exercise. Desirable levels: at least 40mg/dl for men and 50mg/dl for women.  
• Triglycerides are a type of fat in your blood that your body uses for energy. These are usually elevated with excessive sugar and alcohol consumption. The combination of high triglycerides with low HDL or high LDL can increase your risk for heart attack and stroke. Desirable levels <150.  
• Total cholesterol is the total amount of cholesterol in your blood based on your HDL, LDL, and triglycerides numbers. Increasing soluble fiber (fruits, veggies, oats, starchy beans, psyllium) can help decrease. Desirable levels<150.  

Note: The desirable levels listed above are from the CDC.

Cholesterol management is based on your lifetime cardiovascular risk. Your medical provider may encourage you to live a healthier lifestyle by limiting saturated and trans fats, along with alcohol, and to increase your physical activity, soluble fiber and water, and/or may prescribe you medication to help lower your numbers as well.

If you need assistance with making dietary changes, ask your provider for a referral or schedule an appointment with your local dietitian. For more information, feel free to call me at Veterans Memorial Hospital at 563-568-3411.