National Cholesterol Education Month is a public health and awareness campaign that educates the public about the dangers of having high blood cholesterol.
So, what is cholesterol? And how does having high cholesterol affect the body? Cholesterol is a type of fat in your blood. Your cells need cholesterol and your body makes all it needs. But you also get cholesterol from the food you eat, so this can cause an excess of cholesterol that can build up in your arteries. The buildup can narrow the arteries and make it harder for blood to flow through them.
There are many factors, aside from diet, that can cause high cholesterol. These include:
- Being overweight
- Being inactive
- Age (cholesterol starts to rise after age 20)
- Family history
High blood cholesterol is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke which are among the leading causes of death in the United States, making it more important than ever to get regular cholesterol screenings. This is even more crucial since high cholesterol doesn’t cause any symptoms until it is already serious.
If you have high cholesterol, it can be treated successfully by eating a heart-healthy diet that is rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish, and low-fat or nonfat dairy foods. Exercise has also been proven to lower cholesterol, as well as losing weight if needed and not smoking.