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.

Cholesterol Defined

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 like 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.

High Cholesterol

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 this fatty substances in your arterial walls.

This will block blood flow and put you at a greater risk for heart disease.

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.

This includes:

  • Maintaining a healthy diet with plenty of fruits, veggies and whole grains.
  • Avoiding foods that are high in fat 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.

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