Cholesterol Basics for Seniors
High cholesterol has become extremely common in the United States today. In fact, more than 50% of adults in the US are suffering from high cholesterol—and seniors age 65 and older are at the greatest risk of suffering from this condition.
What is most alarming, is that those with high cholesterol are at a high risk of having a stroke or heart attack. One of the scariest things about high cholesterol is that it typically doesn’t present any symptoms, so many people don’t know they have high cholesterol until they visit their doctor to get their cholesterol levels checked.
Since high cholesterol issues can be hard to detect, it is important that all seniors are aware of some of the basics of cholesterol, how it works and why high cholesterol is so dangerous. Here are the basics of what every senior should know.
There Are Different Types of Cholesterol
Before anyone can really understand their own issues with high cholesterol, it is essential to know some of the basics of cholesterol. There are actually three different types of fat in the blood stream that can be measured during a cholesterol screening.
- LDL or Bad Cholesterol- You want low levels of this cholesterol, preferably less than 100 mg/dL. This is the type of cholesterol that puts you at risk for things like heart disease and stroke. Typically, medication is required to help people with high LDL levels manage their cholesterol, but diet and lifestyle changes can help.
- HDL or Good Cholesterol- This type of cholesterol actually attaches itself to the LDL and pushes the bad cholesterol to the liver so it can be filtered out of the body. You need at least 60 mg/dL of HDL. If you have too low numbers of HDL it can actually put you at risk for heart disease.
- Triglycerides- These are also measured in a cholesterol screening. Triglycerides can typically be managed with a healthy diet. You want to have less than 100 mg/dL ideally. These are easy to control, but if you have extremely high levels such as 199 mg/dL, it can put you at risk for cardiovascular issues and even type 2 diabetes.
You Can Manage Cholesterol Levels
One of the most important things to remember about cholesterol, is that there are things that you can do to manage your cholesterol levels. There are cholesterol medications available, but there are also other lifestyle changes that seniors can make not only to help lower their current, high cholesterol, but to prevent their cholesterol from getting high to begin with.
The two most important things that seniors can do is to exercise regularly and maintain a good diet. When it comes to exercise, seniors should do exercises that work for them, and that don’t stress out their bodies too much. This can include exercises like swimming, yoga, stretching and walking.
Diet is another great way to make sure that you are keeping your cholesterol levels under control. A healthy diet should include more foods that are high in fiber, such as beans and oatmeal. Seniors with high cholesterol should also avoid foods that are filled with saturated fats.
Little lifestyle changes like this can go a long way in helping any senior maintain a healthy life and healthy cholesterol levels not only now, but for years to come.
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..