Cholesterol 101: Important Information for Seniors
Every senior, no matter what their current diet and lifestyle choice may be, should educate themselves on cholesterol. Healthy cholesterol levels are essential for maintaining good health—and while cholesterol can impact people at any point in their lives, seniors are even more prone to cholesterol issues.
While the best way to understand cholesterol and its impact is to meet with your health care provider, this basic overview will highlight some of the key facts that everyone should know about cholesterol.
Most people have heard of cholesterol—but they don’t know exactly what it is. Simply put, cholesterol is a fatty substance that is found in every cell in the human body. Cholesterol isn’t all bad. In fact, cholesterol plays an essential role in manufacturing certain hormones and in making vitamin D. It also helps in the digestive process.
The Two Types of Cholesterol
You need some cholesterol in order to maintain good health—so it can do its responsibilities that we discussed earlier. However, there are two types of cholesterol; low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and high-density lipoprotein (HDL).
LDL is the “bad cholesterol” and HDL is the “good cholesterol.” However, you need certain levels of both in order for your body to function properly. It is the ratio of ‘good’ to ‘bad’ cholesterol that is most important.
The biggest thing for seniors to understand when it comes to cholesterol is the dangers of high cholesterol. Unfortunately, many foods in our diets today contain high amounts of cholesterol. When you add these amounts to the total amount of LDL cholesterol naturally occurring in the body—it can cause a build-up of these fatty substances in your arterial walls.
This will block blood flow and put you at a greater risk for heart disease and strokes.
Managing Cholesterol in Seniors
Unfortunately, high cholesterol rarely presents with any symptoms. The only real way to determine if you have high cholesterol is to perform a blood test. Seniors should have a blood test taken every year. There are other things seniors can do as well.
- Maintaining a healthy diet with plenty of fruits, veggies, and whole grains.
- Avoiding foods that are high in fat, red meats, and cholesterol (i.e. reading the labels on things)
- Quitting smoking and avoiding second-hand smoke.
- Getting moderate, low-impact cardio exercise every day for at least 30 minutes.
- Trying to avoid sedentary positions and moving during the day.
There are also prescription drug options, but most healthcare professionals recommend these lifestyle changes first in order to maintain healthy cholesterol.
With this in mind, every senior should make sure that they are getting their cholesterol checked at their next doctor’s visit. High cholesterol can put any senior at serious risk for developing heart disease and it is an avoidable and preventable condition that every older adult should be on the lookout for.
- Kimberly Langdon M.D. is a retired, board-certified obstetrician/gynecologist with 19-years of clinical experience. She graduated from The Ohio State University College of Medicine earning Honors in many rotations. She then completed her OB/GYN residency program at The Ohio State University Medical Center, earning first-place for her senior research project and placed in the 98th percentile on the national exam for OB/GYN residents in the U.S..
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